12.04.16: Looking up at Infinity

Infinity, an abstract sculpture, sits outside the National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C. 


Technical information

Nov. 16, 2004,
12:17 p.m.

38°53’27” N,
77°1'48" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2



1/200th second


There are countless memorials and monuments in Washington, D.C., many with stone-carved Roman gods or goddesses or bronze soldiers. Most have been in place for many decades, some for a century or more.

But public art of a more abstract design is a relatively recent feature of the nation’s capital. Infinity, an abstract sculpture designed by Jose de Rivera and created by Roy Gussow, was one of the first of many pieces installed since the late 1960s.


Since 1967, Infinity has stood outside the south entrance of the National Museum of American History, a Smithsonian museum located on the northwest end of the National Mall. The 24-foot-tall sculpture  (shown at left) features a 16-foot-long polished stainless steel ribbon atop a granite tower. The ribbon reflects the sky, the ground and surrounding buildings, seemingly becoming part of its surroundings. A motor in the sculpture’s pedestal slowly spins the ribbon — a full rotation in 6 minutes — changing the reflections.

I grabbed this shot of Infinity against the sky during a lunchtime break on a 2004 business trip to Washington. I had recently purchased an entry-level digital camera (rediscovering my interest in photography after a more than 20-year hiatus) and was carrying it with me in case I found something interesting to shoot.

I was walking to The Mall when I passed the museum and saw Infinity. When I looked straight up at the ribbon I was intrigued by how it seemed to stand out against the sky while at the same time blending with it, almost like a stainless steel cloud. In areas with warm yellow and brown reflections the ribbon seems to cut through the sky. 

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.