Justine Kirby Photography
“There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter.” - Barack Obama
With the right planning, you can find yourself within meters of a president, former president or would-be president. Over time, the playbook for these events becomes familiar: arrive hours in advance to secure a prime spot in line; chat with other supporters to pass the time; wait, wait and wait some more for the warm-up act; feel the electric atmosphere as the candidate or other main speaker arrives; listen to the stump speech on what is wrong, how the candidate can fix it and the call to action; join the enthusiastic applause at the end; and watch people scramble for selfies. As a photographer, I am a participant, but also a close observer – of lighting, angles, expressions and gestures. When the selfie scrum forms at the end, I hold back, my goal being not a selfie, but portraying the interaction in this very personal form of presidential politics.
The 2020 election veered off the usual script: the pandemic affected not only the issues that dominated the election, but also how campaigns were conducted, how we stood in line to vote (that is, if we decided to vote in person), how we waited for the results, and how we celebrated the outcome. Instead of photographing rallies, the challenge became how to portray this very unusual exercise of democracy.