We can "hate the sin but not the sinner" is a common yet disquieting chestnut in the post-election period. Sin is sowed by one and grown in others. It is all too clear that the United States is riven by inequality and anxiety, anger and division. But is Trumpism a sin or just wayward and wrong? Referring to the adherents as sinners, as satirist Bill Maher has routinely analogized, diminishes the sadly heartfelt significance of the 49 percent of America that voted for the sower because they believe his ugly catering to their weakness. Sin is to be damned. Difference of belief, however, is to be understood.
Now that the election is over, there must be a period of reflection and healing. That's where this publication fits in. The photojournalist William Mebane's Pensacola, FL. 12-8-2017 is a zine (originally intended to be a book) that documents the civil divisions he saw at a Trump rally in Pensacola a year after the 2016 election. "I went to the rally because I wanted to see for myself what happened at these gatherings," he writes in the foreword to this unbound collection of folded pages, "to hear the messages and see those who showed up to support President Trump." To his surprise he "didn't expect to be demonized by the president, to fear for my personal safety, or to hear the most powerful man in the world attack the first amendment."
This documentation of a dangerous period of American history features of the emotion-filled and emotion-less faces of people drawn into the powerful vortex of one man's negative energy. It is a powerful statement that Mebane self-funded. So he recruited designers Cybele Grandjean and Kevin Brainard of Area Of Practice, to make a book. Instead they produced a collection of double-page photographs bound together with startling serendipity through unique image combinations.
The entire broadsheet zine is laid out here.
"Having looked at the images over the course of the project," Brainard says, "I’m fairly intimate with them." They portray an America that truly believes that its greatness has been lessened, in part, by the values that make it great. "It’s very f-ing scary," he admits."We spent a lot of time thinking about the type," says Brainard. "[We] wanted to make it as powerful as possible without feeling like we were celebrating the language. That's remarkably hard." The font is Prophet by Dinamo. "I know, it’s hard not to make the connection. We wanted a font that had visual weight, not pretty, not (too) trendy—but felt unique and ownable. We had it as pre-release, as we often play with their [Dinamo's] fonts."
Unbound and untrimmed, Pensacola, FL. is filled with group shots and close-cropped portraits, many enlarged to emphasize the grain. This selection is organized to place the viewer in the center of the experience. For some, this is Trumpism in the flesh. For some, this is the half of America that wants its piece of the American pie. For others, it is a club that really does not want me as a member. For all, it is a stunning piece of photo-design journalism. The real alternative world incarnate. The soldiers in a cold civil war.