Winning portrait taken by William Rivas-Rivas.

In the short time that LEDC volunteers Mary Evans and photographer William Rivas-Rivas spent with Tenant Association President Tesfaye Lencho, the powerful impressions and stories that he left with both are soon to be shared with the greater DC community.

Sparkling eyes. Hopeful struggle. A committed member of the community.

A salute to DC’s diversity and cultural strength, the 51 winning photos from the “2010 Census: Portraits of DC contest” that debuted in Columbia Heights in late April are taking a short trip down the Green Line next week. The competition, which solicited portraits of area residents from local photographers, was designed to increase awareness of the 2010 Census through creative art.

On Thursday, June 24th at 2 p.m., the 51 portraits will be debuted on the N Street side of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  One of the 51 photos is of Tesfaye, taken by Rivas-Rivas.

“I just felt it deep in my heart,” Tesfaye said, recalling the moment when Rivas-Rivas took the picture and they joked about its chances of being selected. “I felt like it was going to win.”

Rivas-Rivas said the project was a “perfect union” given his love for photography and his admiration for Tesfaye’s work with LEDC’s Affordable Housing Preservation Program to organize a tenant association and preserve the affordability of his building’s rental housing. He said he hopes the portrait creates a new opportunity for DC residents to talk about the importance of preserving affordable housing citywide.

“I want to use photography to bring attention to issues that people need to learn about,” Rivas-Rivas said.

Each photo will be paired with an audio recording created by the DC Listening Lounge, a group of creative artists that meet monthly to share their craft. With the help of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, viewers will be able to dial a phone number and hear audio recordings of Tesfaye and Rivas-Rivas talking about their respective experiences.

The portrait contest, sponsored by the DC Counts Campaign, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and FotoWeek DC, attracted more than 200 entries. To see the portraits, check out this gallery online at