The Washington Monument is not your penis (and other Instagram tips)

Washington Monument

How to properly touch the monument / Photo by Joe Newman

What do the Washington Monument, the Eiffel tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa all have in common? Well, besides being cherished, albeit extremely phallic, national icons, they give tens of thousands of tourists each day a chance to create relative size optical illusions.

A trip to Washington, D.C., would almost be incomplete without trying to pinch the find more between your finger tips.  So, as a public service to tourists all over the world, here’s some dos-and-don’ts on how to bend reality when snapping those Instagrams of our beloved monument.

1. Do use one hand to touch the top of the Monument.

The two-handed method, one at the base and one at the top, is much harder to pull off.

2. Do use your camera to tilt the monument.

There’s something about presenting an “abnormal” perspective that helps pull off the illusion. It has something to do with creating confusion in the portion of your brain responsible for processing spatial relationships. Okay, I totally made that up but trust me, it works.

3. Don’t turn the monument into your penis.

We get it. But as an optical illusion, it just doesn’t work. Proportions! Your brain has an easier time believing that the woman in #1 is 1,000 feet tall than that this guy has a penis twice as long as his body.

4. If you must do the penis gag, try a variation of #3.

Don’t do this.

5. Don’t hold the monument in the palm of your hand.

It’s a rare tourist who can pull it off convincingly. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a palm-up photo work. Ever.

6. It’s okay to pinch the top and bottom of the monument between the fingers of one hand.

This method works better than the upward-palm attempt but it’s usually not as good as #1’s method of touching the point with a single hand or finger.

7. Do take your time and don’t be afraid to look silly.

These photo illusions work best when you have a photographer who takes the time to position you and himself or herself properly. Work the angles, people.

8. Don’t be afraid to copy someone else’s technique.

Stand exactly where this woman is standing and do exactly what she’s doing.

9. Do watch out for objects or people that get between your hand and the monument.

If you’re going to insist on trying to pull off the aforementioned palm-up technique, make sure there’s not a bus parked between your hand and the monument.

10. Do have fun.

If you’re going to miss, miss big.

This post is part of Instagram Travel Thursday, a blog collective that promotes the great travel experts on Instagram and uses Instagram as a source for travel inspiration. 


Official Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosts:

Skimbaco Lifestyle
Destination Unknown
Child Mode
Hines Sight Blog
House of Anaïs
Luxury Travel Mom

Joe Newman

I'm Joe Newman, multi-media story teller, non-profit do-gooder, international street photographer, serious poker player, intrepid traveler. Bourbon drinker.

  • Katja of Skimbaco

    Hahaha!! I love this post!

  • Satu VW

    Best of the week, I think, I’m still laughing… I haven’t tried any of these but for sure I will now 😉

  • Leigh Powell Hines

    This is hysterical. I love it.

  • Chasing the Donkey

    B_C_Ford looks very pleased with himself !! I myself have failed at all of these types of photos. I wish I could figure it out…

  • Reeta @houseofanais

    LOL, what a great story, and good tips. I haven’t done a single monument photo like this yet, but will definitely try next time there is a good tower or statue in sight!

  • Joe Newman

    Thanks for the comments everyone! It was a fun piece to put together and I didn’t even scratch the surface of all the potential Instagrams that fit the post, especially the interpretive phallus art.

  • Elena

    Oh my goodness I love these!!