99 Trump Signs and 1 Hillary

How election anxiety got me working on a photography project

Alon Koppel
Nov 1, 2016 · 9 min read

November 8th and American election day is almost here. Finally. In the last few months I decided to photograph any house I came across that had a Trump sign in front of it. In upstate NY (or more accurately, the mid-Hudson Valley), there are quite a few. My goal was to photograph at least 100 signs before the election, I didn’t worry whether the light was good (it was often cloudy and moody — which fits my mood when I think about a possible President Trump! I didn’t care whether the shot was great but was happy if it was. My election anxiety gave me the freedom to go out there and explore the political landscape, if only in an incidental way, but for me personally, it was a way to confront the bombastic Trump campaign.

At the end of the day, after the votes are counted, we are all still here. Farmers, steel workers, the hard-working, the unemployed — the folks who feel their country is changing and leaving them behind; and those of us who want this country to progress with equal opportunities, with respect and love for one another and not hatred. It is sad (and sadly understandable) to see a fear-based campaign being quite so effective.

Trump is a copier, not an innovator. “[Let’s] Make America Great Again” was first used by Reagan in the 80’s after all.

So it’s no wonder some people feel comfortable with Trump’s “Great Again” message since it’s not the first time many of them have heard the call. I wanted to see their signs in-situ, in front of their homes, their fields, their barns, and to document the American landscape as a social snapshot just before the election. My process was inspired by Ed Ruscha’s work, “Some Los Angeles Apartments” and “Twentysix Gasoline Stations”.

Of course, I saw Hillary Clinton signs here and there — it’s not just Trump land in these parts — but I was less curious about documenting those. In this election, for most rational people, there is only one choice on November 8th. So the Hillary Clinton signs may reflect those home-owner’s support, which is important of course, but they lack the fervor and anger the other signs reflect. Donald Trump is a bigoted, tax-evading, woman-molesting, financially and morally bankrupt man who speaks out of both sides of his mouth. So then who are the people who vow to support him when his own party has all but abandoned him? Who are the people willing to publicly endorse him by planting a Trump sign in their front yard? Who erects home-made signs, or proudly sporting his t-shirt, when most of their Republican neighbors tellingly plant signs for their local Republican candidates but refuse to add a sign for their party’s candidate for the highest office in the nation?

Visually I was interested in documenting signs of their rage and commitment to this person sporadically bubbling up throughout the landscape, often with a confrontational message, as in the sign that read, “DEPLORABLE-AND PROUD OF IT!”. It reminds me of the photo I saw of an older woman at a Trump rally wearing a t-shirt that read, “FUCK FEELINGS”. For me that really sums it up — our great divide.

It’s a weird election, definitely historical if a woman wins, frighteningly historical if this man wins. If you are frustrated or anxious as well, GO VOTE!

Vantage

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