Divided States
1 / 20Divided States

Divided States. A Photographic Journey to the Heart of the US Presidential Election 2016 (30th October – 7th December)

The publication contains 154 images and approximately 18,000 words of text written as a journal including interviews with people he encountered during the journey.

The following passage is the introduction:

On Halloween, 2016, my bus pulled into Brownsville, a hot, characterless Texan town on the US-Mexico border. In the bus terminal, the air conditioning kept people cool, whilst the festoons of ghoulish seasonal décor added a slight touch of the macabre to the mundane situation.

Macabre too, was an apt description for the 2016 presidential campaign, which had become acutely acrimonious and a real-time TV horror show. The protocol, decency and mutual respect usually maintained between prospective candidates had vanished some time ago. Overt hatred existed between them now.

I’m a British photographer, part-based in Mexico. I decided to travel to the USA to witness the tail-end of the presidential election campaign, and crucially the aftermath of Election Day on the 8th November. I wanted to meet some Americans at this significant moment and to discover for myself their take on the political climate. What would their reaction be to the prospect of either the first female president or the first reality-TV-star president?

As part of my journey I set myself one symbolic goal: to reach the White House – the same objective both candidates were aiming for. Otherwise, my route and all my encounters along the way evolved through serendipity, and the election story became the backdrop to events, rather than always occupying centre-stage. I would travel 8,000 miles by car, covering 13 American states as well as Washington, DC, whilst experiencing a genuinely historic moment for the US.

I had not intended to keep a journal but after a strange meeting during breakfast at La Copa Inn, Brownsville, on my first morning in the USA, I realised there was a story to tell. Those events and experiences are recounted here.

Ben Elwes. December 2016