Tomb of the Unknowns photographer learns a 'real big lesson in social media'

Karin Markert says Monday has been a "real big lesson in social media," after a photo she took in September of sentinels guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns in the rain confused many news organizations and social mediaites who thought it was taken during Hurricane Sandy.

Markert's husband, Col. James C. Markert, is the regimental commander of the Old Guard, which conducts honor-guard duties throughout the Washington, D.C., area, including round-the-clock vigil at the tomb, in Arlington National Cemetery. (Yes, they're out there during the hurricane.)

Karin Markert has been a photographer since 1983, she says, and an interest in taking pictures in storms coaxed her out of her house near Arlington Cemetery to photograph a changing-of-the-guard ceremony at the tomb last month.

"I don’t think it was really raining much when they started," she says by phone. "They just got caught."

And Markert stayed out there with them, capturing more than two dozen photos, including the striking one that bounced around the Internet Monday. Usually, during the day, Markert looks after the couple's three children -- a 14-year-old, an 11-year-old, and a 9-year-old, two of whom have special needs. "Being a military spouse is wonderful," Markert says. "I need an outlet, and photography is it."

Karin Markert took this photo in mid-September.

NPR, The Washington Post and Talking Points Memo were among the news organizations that posted the photo in various media. Markert says she doesn't get paid for her photographs, which she sometimes supplies to Army public affairs shops in the D.C. area.

Today's burst of interest in her photography is a little bittersweet, she said, since her Nikon 5100 is headed to Best Buy for extended warranty coverage -- all that rain isn't so great for a camera's insides, as it happens. The soldiers were laughing at her "big, silly umbrella" as she photographed them recently, she says.

Markert thinks the photo got out via her Facebook page, where she'd made the shot her cover photo. Markert "felt bad that people thought it was from today," she says. "People got so excited by it. I don't like misinformation to be out. But it's way beyond me now."

As to her own rise to fame, which includes "20 new Facebook requests but no marriage requests yet," Markert says she's happy to shine a light on the work of the Old Guard. "I'm maybe famous for 15 minutes," she says, "but the Old Guard will live on forever."

Related: Instagram users are posting 10 Hurricane Sandy pictures every second | How journalists can avoid getting fooled by fake Hurricane Sandy photos

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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