Twenty-three days and 7409 miles ago, I left my home, my family, my kids, in search of imagery to help capture the American landscape at the time of the 2016 presidential election. I was in search of basic signage that marks our time and categorizes Americans into political factions. What I found was something else.
Of course, if you've been paying attention (or if you're reading this in the future and you've forgotten), American politics has shifted significantly in the last two years - okay, eight years. In light of this election, this particular election, hundreds of years of democracy and political correctness is now up for grabs. These 23 days I've spent on the road, a lot of this has played out. Twenty three days on 'The Middle Road' - the first 14 of which I was solo - I drove through 23 states to round up American sentiment and capture the American political landscape.
I've still got a couple hundred miles to go, just a few more miles to home. My blue 2003 Prius, with 262,839 miles on it so far who only needed one visit to the car-ER - yesterday - all fixed. The inverter failed, or something, and so I've got a freshie. I'm so grateful for that 40 mpg car. She's a champ - and for that she finally earned her name - Champ. I'm grateful for so much beyond just my car, of course, though the enormity of gratitude doesn't exactly fit in this tiny box of a screen, my boy Kalen, my mother-in-law Mary, my kitty Meko, R.I.P. And much more.
I didn't set out on this trip to be documenting such a pivotal moment in the history of America, though I'm not sure why I didn't think so. I've photographed the last two elections during which votes for the first black president surpassed old white men both times. That's pivotal. But I had known of Obama for a while - I had cried at a poetic speech he made as a senator - spontaneously - I had no idea who he was or what he looked like, I happened to have the radio on when I was circling the a block (or three) in San Francisco looking for parking- and some of you know that sometimes takes a while. The radio was on, I heard him. It was poetic.
This time around, this election, I guess I anticipated something a little more even keeled and respectful, political, when it came time for election day. I'm not sure why. I'll blame it on the red and blue map. None of the foreshadowing pointed to reality. So now, in these last 23 days I've been on the road photographing America, not only has this new President-elect been selected, we now have an entirely new political scene, a completely different American reality, a new American political landscape. The difference is palpable. Great? Not so sure. I think I surely get why successful politicians try to steer to the middle road now, like it or not. It keeps families together.
Imagine sitting in a moving box being propelled through foreign lands with cup after cup of coffee, listening to the news of the last few weeks, alone, sometimes driving through the darkness. Granted, I limited myself to two hours a day of news, but still, it was some challenging news of all sorts. I'm not talking about the isolation chamber or anything, I'm just trying to paint a picture of some intense moments. I describe this so you can see where I've been.
I'm trying to photograph from a non-partisan place, listening to local radio, listening to all kinds of perspectives. At the same time, these images I found in America, they are part of me, and my superficial understanding of American history and culture as an educated white woman. So these images aren't documenting an un-biased view of the American political landscape. I can't necessarily say they are not telling a story that doesn't include my own. But as this election and even the last two elections have been about race, my white skin has allowed me a certain comfort and insight into the picture we are painting.
These photographs are just one little piece of the picture, telling a little bit of the story. I am privileged to have been able to capture this moment in time, this fascinating time, this painful time, this triumphant time, this exacerbating time. I'm hoping that, at some minute level, seeing America through my lens can be one more way to get us all to bridge the divide. We shall see.
There will be more.