Long Exposures Of A Creepy Garage (Also, The Beatles!)

The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
Jim Tuttle/NPR

This week, NPR's Scott Simon and photographer Mike Mitchell visited the site where Mitchell shot a historic evening 50 years ago. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

Now a humble parking lot, the Washington Coliseum has seen a lot in its days. Malcolm X once spoke there, circus lions jumped through hoops there — and on Feb. 11 1964, The Beatles played their first-ever U.S. concert there.

Photographer Mike Mitchell was photographing that day. He was 18 years old, he recalls in an interview with NPR's Scott Simon, and couldn't afford a flash for his camera. He took concert photos using only the available light.

Photographer Mike Mitchell poses with his photographs of the first U.S. performance of The Beatles at the Washington Coliseum in central London in 2011. i i

hide captionPhotographer Mike Mitchell poses with his photographs of the first U.S. performance of The Beatles at the Washington Coliseum in central London in 2011.

Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images
Photographer Mike Mitchell poses with his photographs of the first U.S. performance of The Beatles at the Washington Coliseum in central London in 2011.

Photographer Mike Mitchell poses with his photographs of the first U.S. performance of The Beatles at the Washington Coliseum in central London in 2011.

Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

"I had to take my cues from what the light was doing," Mitchell said. "And the light was very kind."

In the 50 years since that day, a lot has changed. The building fell into disrepair after being sold, and for 10 years was a transfer station for Waste Management.

The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. i i
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. i i
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. i i
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. i i
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. i i
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. i i
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. i i
Jim Tuttle/NPR
The former Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
Jim Tuttle/NPR

Still, on any given day, beautiful shafts of light can been seen spilling through the circular windows in the vaulted ceilings onto the abandoned clusters of stadium seating lurking in dark corners along the walls.

Working without flash, like Mitchell, we set out to make long-exposure photographs showing what exists today of the crumbling structure that once played host to history.

The Beatles at the Washington Coliseum, 1964 i i

hide captionThe Beatles at the Washington Coliseum, 1964

Mike Mitchell/Courtesy of the District of Columbia Public Library
The Beatles at the Washington Coliseum, 1964

The Beatles at the Washington Coliseum, 1964

Mike Mitchell/Courtesy of the District of Columbia Public Library

This weekend, if you find yourself wandering in the D.C. neighborhood formerly known as Swampoodle, and into this parking lot formerly known as a music venue, you'll find a temporary exhibit of Mitchell's photos, commemorating the 50th anniversary of that night in Beatlemania.

Correction Feb. 9, 2014

A previous version of this story included a photo of the Beatles performing in Baltimore in 1964. They were not at the Washington Coliseum, as the caption indicated.

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