In the summer of 2016, I was hired by the data-driven political website FiveThirtyEight as an editor for a series of daily videos* produced on-site at both the Republican and Democratic conventions. The first official outings for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as their respective party’s nominees, the conventions were also the first shots fired in what would turn out to be perhaps the most bizarre and divisive election in US history.
Although most of the long hours I worked at both the RNC and DNC were spent inside the ABC News press tent in front of a computer editing daily footage, I was always conscious that the environment I was in was nothing short of surreal. From heightened security (law enforcement at the RNC alone could have put down a revolution) to protests, party propaganda, partisan political passions and television screens everywhere playing speeches and commentary in an endless loop, I felt as if I was at a circus unlike any other.
In the precious few hours I had free during both conventions, I took as many photographs as I could. With my press ID, I was able to attend both candidates’ speeches, access areas off limits to the public, and take a peek behind the curtains from which the news is made.
This series is my brief record of both events. It’s hard now, in 2017, to look back at these photographs objectively in light of how things turned out. And yet, even at the height of the conventions, there were chilling signs of what might come. Viewing Donald Trump’s acceptance speech in person from the RNC was perhaps the first time during the election that I felt afraid of what a Trump presidency might mean for America as a nation, and for me personally as a minority American with a Muslim name. To that end, the titles of the photographs reflect a sense of looking back with hindsight while acknowledging what was experienced or observed in the moment.
Below are a few photos from the series. The rest can be viewed here.
*Videos can be viewed following the photos below.
From the unique perspective of a black Trump delegate to the concerns of the Democratic LGBT caucus to Lenny Kravitz warming up for a headlining performance, you can view all the videos I edited for FiveThirtyEight below: