Exhibition Review: Naomi Harris at Half King Gallery
Naomi Harris at Half King Gallery
By Liz Von Klemperer
Photographer Naomi Harris went on a mission during Trump’s first 100 days in office to document both democrats and republicans across the nation. She traversed a total of 19,000 miles, photographing people from Washington DC to Palm Beach, Florida, the Bible and Rust Belts. Harris wanted to know why, despite polls and media that assured the public that Hillary Clinton would win, Trump succeeded, and Harris found surprised her. On July 11, Harris met with Vice’s photo editor Elizabeth Renstrom at The Half King bar to discuss her journey, process, and photographs that appear in Vice’s June issue.
“When the news of Donald Trump’s presidency hit, everyone was in a frenzy,” Harris began. “I thought, you know what? I don’t have a lot going on right now, I’m going to drive around for the first 100 days, and that’s basically how it started.” From sleeping in her car in Walmart parking lots to finding subjects by shouting out of her car window, Harris has put herself on the line for her series. Many of her subjects were found spontaneously, such as James Watson and Jeremiah Petty, who Harris met in front of the liqueur store in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was last seen. They were both Trump supporters. “They’re both in their late 30’s and explained that they always voted republican, so they continued to do so,” Harris said.
Harris was also surprised to learn that many of the people she spoke to couldn’t vote due to voter disenfranchisement. Many were felons, and had to apply and pay a fee to get their right to vote back after being released. Many were not motivated to do so, in part because of hefty fees. When Harris sought out a trans couple in Louisville, Kentucky, they shared that they feared Kentucky would follow in North Carolina’s footsteps in implementing the “bathroom bill.”
“What I liked about your piece is that you had conversations with people and uncovered why Trump was elected by listening,” Renstrom said. Harris nodded. “I don’t think people from the west and east coast actually go to the middle of the country and talk to people,” Harris said. “And you know who else didn’t do that? The Hilary Clinton campaign. Trump swooped into places like Wisconsin and Michigan and said to the people, ‘I’m going to give you jobs and get coal back,’ and he made them believe he had their interests at heart.”
Harris plans on traveling around the country to document Trumps last 100 days in office. “You better start quick!” a voice from the audience boomed. The crowd laughed. “That’s a lot to hope for,” Harris said soberly. “I think for now, the democrats have to work harder to build the party.”