Photographer Stephen Wilkes and his assistant Lenny Christopher spent 15 hours that day in a scissor lift on the National Mall, snapping more than 1,500 photographs from the early hours of the morning until nightfall.
The final product is comprised of hand-picked scenes from 50 frames that were eventually composited into one piece. It includes then-President Donald Trump leaving the White House on Marine One in the upper-right corner of the frame, the actual inauguration ceremony in the middle and the nighttime memorial lights on the National Mall to the left.
"I knew in my heart that this picture defines not just the moment in history, but also the fact that democracy was saved," Wilkes told National Geographic, referencing the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol earlier in the month and the resulting unprecedented security in the capitol on Jan. 20. "We did save democracy because this day happened."
Wilkes added: "They tried, but they couldn't stop it."
Visit National Geographic's website to learn more about Wilkes' day-to-night photography.
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