Darkest Before the Dawn

Photojournalists foretell the government shutdown through foreboding images of our nation’s Capitol.

 How do you capture the mood of a government in crisis? In the days approaching the government shutdown, wire photojournalists foretold the approach of a catastrophe with melancholic visual tropes located around Capitol Hill. At some point, haggard congressional leaders standing at lecterns just aren’t nearly as dramatic as ominous shadows, apocalyptic sunsets, and precariously skewed architecture. Can’t you just feel the depression and anxiety?

The early morning sun rises behind the U.S. Capitol building Sep
The early morning sun rises behind the U.S. Capitol building. But what fresh crisis will the new day bring?

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A U.S. Capitol police officer stands guard at sunrise, possibly wondering if he’ll receive back pay.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A statue of the first US President, George Washington, is seen i
A statue of President George Washington stands in the Rotunda of the Capitol. He is doubtlessly questioning whether it was all worth it.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A US Senate employee walks through the Capitol Crypt, Sept. 25, 2013.
A U.S. Senate employee walks through the Capitol crypt, perhaps pondering the deeper existential implications of being declared “nonessential.”

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The US Capitol is seen at sunset in Washington, DC, Sept. 25, 2013.
Said Pablo Neruda, “You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.” If only these blossoms could have warned the folly of the filibuster.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The Dome of the Capitol Building is seen through a skylight window, Sept. 27, 2013.
Government in the eye of the storm.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. Capitol is photographed through a chain fence in Washington, Sept. 30, 2013.
Government born free but everywhere in chains.

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The US Capitol is silhouetted on September 28, 2013
Darkness descends. Creepily.

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty

A traffic light is seen in front of the United States Capitol building Sept. 29, 2013
The Congress stands athwart history. History is yelling, “Stop!”

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Image

A view of Capitol Hill September 29, 2013 in Washington, DC.
A monument to peace, perfectly positioned to symbolize dysfunction.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Dusk falls on the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 30, 2013.
The Capitol, sighted through crushing foliage. Can lawmakers find their way out of the wilderness?

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Congress looms on a shadowy precipice within mere hours of a government shutdown.

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

A dark moment of personal reckoning consumes the National Mall after brinkmanship ends in stalemate.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the government shutdown.