An anxiety-ridden nation trepidatiously waits as November 3rd and the 59th presidential election rapidly approaches. And with so many absentee ballots already dropped off in ballot boxes or mailed — not to mention wild stories of hours-long waits for eager early voters — early voting data suggests that voter participation in this election is set to make history.
Separate from candidates’ proposed policies and political histories (or lack thereof), it’s no secret that photography plays a huge part in how we see and feel about political candidates. But only a handful of talented photographers get access to Air Force One, town halls and socially distanced debates. There are plenty of other valuable stories about where, why and how people are voting, especially this year.
Enter the #PhotographersVote campaign, which was launched on October 8th by FlakPhoto Projects’ Andy Adams. The campaign encourages photographers to show the world why they’re voting on November 3rd in the best way they know how: photography.
I spoke with Andy and Jon Feinstein, Co-founder/Curator at Humble Arts Foundation and Content Director at The Luupe, both of which are participating partners, about the idea behind the campaign, the role of their partners and how photographers like you can get involved.
You describe the campaign as a photo community movement. Can you talk a bit more about what you mean by that?
There are many corners in the photography community, and social media loosely connects all of us, so we started with the notion that each of us has the power to share individual stories using Instagram. The project’s goal is to make it easy for photographers everywhere to show why they’re voting in this U.S. Presidential Election, and we enlisted a group of 30+ photography organizations and platforms to activate their communities to join the cause.
Everyone can play a part in the #PhotographersVote campaign.
You mention that the goal of this campaign’s goal is to create a groundswell around the importance of voting, but many states’ voter registration deadlines have passed. Was there any consideration around launching the campaign earlier than you did?
We would have launched this a month earlier in an ideal world, but it’s not a significant concern. We launched when voter registration was still open in most states – and we feel and hope that encouraging enthusiasm towards voting is critical at any stage up until election day (and into the future). The campaign isn’t just about registering to vote; it’s about participating in the election.
We want to create excitement, enthusiasm, and positivity around our collective civic duty and ensure that everyone is fired up to move forward and act on that civic duty even past the registration deadlines.
In your blog posts, you say that the election “is critical to the United States’ future, improving BIPOC and LGBTQ lives, responding to the climate crisis, improving global relations, and countless other issues.”
Is this open to photographers who might identify as conservative but agree that voting is important?
We think it’s important to clarify that PhotographersVote is a nonpartisan project that does not officially endorse a specific candidate. The main reason for this is that so many photography organizations are 501c3 non-profits, which means that technically they have to be candidate agnostic. It was vital for us to create an opportunity that did not limit non-profits from signing on to support.
This project is open to anyone, and we both know photographers who identify as “conservative” in many ways (fiscally, at least) but still support progressive values. We don’t believe that these issues should be considered “political” or partisan issues. They are human rights issues.
How are you measuring the success of this campaign?
#PhotographersVote is a passion project, so any level of engagement and participation is a success. We didn’t establish KPIs when we put this together, but we did have a concrete strategy for reaching a wide audience by connecting our shared networks within the photography community. The organizations we’re partnering with, collectively, have a wide swell of followers. If 100 photographers participate – great. If 1000, 10,000 or 100,000 participate – even better.
Is this a one-and-done project that ceases to exist after the election, or do you plan to continue? If so, how?
We’ve talked about this from day one. Right now, the priority is engaging people in this election. Once that ends, we’ll see whether we want to continue it moving forward. Voting, civic engagement, and activism don’t end with the 2020 election, but it’s our priority for right now.
You’ve got a great list of partners. What is their role in the campaign?
Our partners’ role is open-ended. At the baseline, each of them has signed on to say, “We support this project, we endorse it.” In its ideal form, each partner actively promotes the initiative to their communities and followers, which we hope will build that “groundswell” to increase nation-wide photographer participation.
Some of our partners have their own voting initiatives underway as well. For example, Lenscratch, TooTiredProject, and The Luupe all have online exhibitions or blog features in the pipeline dedicated to photography and the power of voting. And while they’re not an official partner, Featureshoot has been doing some impactful voting-related content projects as well.
Has anything surprised you since you launched?
We’ve both been inspired by the response. Many organizations were enthusiastic about joining us right out of the gate, and the photography community has reacted with firm support. Ours is an engaged and passionate community, and that feels great.
To get involved in the campaign, share your photos on your Instagram feed and tag @photographersvote and #PhotographersVote. They’re looking for anything related to voting or civic engagement, the 2020 election or any core issue you feel deeply about. For any organization looking to spread the word, get in touch with #PhotographersVote. They’ll be adding new partners on a rolling basis.
And most importantly, please VOTE!!
About the author: Caitlyn Edwards is the Community Marketing Manager at PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. She has a degree in Peace & Conflict Resolution and is religious about black coffee and great wine (but never together). This article was also published here.
Image credits: Cover image by Ashima Yadava.