There was a time when American presidential elections were simple affairs, pitting liberal urban Democrats against conservative rural Republicans. One could not be blamed for forming stereotypes of what “those people” looked like. But no more. Populist candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have broken all the establishment rules, and their supporters have made us all question those old stereotypes. With that in mind, Chicago-based photographer Saverio Truglia decided to see for himself by spending some time at rallies for both candidates.
Saverio found that the questions were more interesting than the answers:
My picture of the Muslim-looking woman in hijab and the white man in a Trump ball cap and flag scarf look like they are lovers. One would assume they both support Trump. But do they? They’re probably protesters. But are they? Another picture of a young man in an American flag t-shirt looking very guarded at a Sanders rally. Is he quietly protesting, or is he just patriotic? I don’t really care to know. Ambiguity is what I love the most about art.
In creating portraits that are neutral but for their lively subject matter, Saverio invites us to look at our stereotypes and to see what we place on others before they’ve claimed it for themselves.
I was interested in making objective portraits that left the viewer armed to read them with only their own baggage.
Saverio has covered three rallies so far: one for Donald Trump in Chicago (infamously cancelled for violence), one for Trump in rural Illinois, and one for Bernie Sanders in Chicago. He waited in the lines, telling people who he was and explaining his project. He didn’t ask anyone for their political affiliation, and when he posts a picture to Instagram, he simply states at which rally he photographed them.
Even after taking hundreds of portraits, Saverio says he still can’t tell who supports whom just based off appearance. “We certainly could make a subjective judgment based on what we think we know,” he says, but he maintains that our instincts are often skewed by prejudice. If anything, he says he sensed a difference in the atmosphere of the crowds and the attitudes at the rallies more than a difference in the appearance of people.
What excites me most about making this kind of work is putting myself in≠ the sociological crosshairs of an issue that is overwhelmingly powered by self righteousness and fear. My belief is that if people understood what scares the hell out of each other, we’d realize there’s a common solution.
To view more of Saverio’s work visit saveriotruglia.com.