In Brink (Punctum Press, 2022), photojournalist David Butow captures many critical tableaux in a visual dissection of the US political system between 2015 and 2021. There are flags and red MAGA hats, of course, and blue buttons with Hillary Clinton’s “H” logo. There are political rallies and candid portraits of the period’s most iconic and influential players — Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Roger Stone, and James Comey. There are panoramic views of the Senate floor, packed with camera techs and reporters as testimony unfolded from Robert Mueller, Mark Zuckerberg, and Brett Kavanaugh. There are Trump rallies, Antifa rallies, George Floyd protests, pro-gun demonstrators. Riot police defending statues, defending rally perimeters, being overrun as the Capitol is stormed by rioters attempting to overturn the 2020 election results. All this is dramatic, but it is also what one would expect in a survey of our turbulent recent chapter in US politics.
What is more interesting is Butow’s decision to include, for example, an abandoned factory in Ohio, glimpsed through a window that reflects back a room holding a row of plastic chairs, a gumball machine. A darkened streetscape with a flagpole in front of a dress store, lit from within to feature a row of formal dresses in red and white. A moody sunrise over Benton Harbor, Michigan. Images like these appear mostly in the “Act I” section of the book, but they illustrate Butow’s point that the current political climate is not a reflection of even the highest-profile individual players, but of conditions on the ground that have been fermenting for some time.
(Image by David Butow, courtesy the artist and Punctum Press)
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