Gilles Peress. Day 11. Wet n’ Wild, Orlando, Florida.
Bruce, Paolo and Gilles left town this week. Florida finished counting its ballots and declared President Obama the winner, long after the 49 other states had tabulated their results. One can only imagine the situation on the ground in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties today if the election hadn’t been decided decisively elsewhere in the country.
The 2000 election and its messy aftermath were the touchstone for Postcards Miami, and it’s somehow fitting that in 2012 the state still couldn’t figure out who had won by the end of election day.
Our interest in the 2000 election was in many ways metaphorical. That year showed us, in a very concrete way, that elections are as much about whose votes count as they are about who people vote for. And in a broader sense, the question of “whose votes count” is really a question about how groups form, and how the processes of inclusion and exclusion play out.
Many, if not most, of the people you saw on this tumblr cannot vote. Lots of people in Florida can’t vote: Non-citizen immigrants – legal and illegal – of which there are plenty, and children, for starters. On top of that, felons and ex-felons are disenfranchised in Florida: A reported 1,500,000 people, 10% of the adult population of the state, and nearly 25% of the African-American population. If “statelessness” is a condition premised on the absence of the right to participate in the political process, a stateless population, larger than the population of many US states, exists in Florida.
The institutional media, of which we nominally form a part from time to time, are fond of telling us that “you” decide who will govern the country. Little time is spent unpacking who the “you” is, or should be. One can speculate about the reasons for that, but one of the great advantages of working independently is the freedom to ignore the pressure to conform to those expectations.
We wanted to come to Florida at election time, but we had no real desire to “cover” the election, as that term has come to be used. Many of us have been inside the bubble with presidents and candidates and campaigns in the past and, frankly, wonder how much new insight there is to be gleaned from working there. Instead, almost to a person, we latched onto the question of the shifting boundaries between inclusion and exclusion, whether related directly to voting and disenfranchisement, or in assisted living facilities, under overpasses, in diner parking lots, at the “US” base in Guantanamo, Cuba, or in the Rockaways. As Alec framed it in the very first body of work from this project, we became interested in who was living outside the gates of the Magic Kingdom … and we often found ourselves surprised to learn that it was homeless children, living in motels decked out in amusement park decor.
Mark Power is arriving this weekend, an Englishman in America over Thanksgiving. He’ll be posting here, and some of the rest of us will keep posting too. Mark’s work will be the beginning or our attempt to make sense of what we’ve done. People sometimes tell us that the tumblr is so much less coherent than our normal work. Of course it is – and we love it for that. But we also hope to turn around a more thoughtful and edited publication by Inauguration Day, so keep your eyes open for it. In the meantime, those of you in London and Paris can see our earlier Rochester project at Paris Photo and installed in the Magnum London print room.
We try not to gum up the tumblr with too much text or explanation, and we’ll get back to pictures soon. Before signing off, however, we do need to thank our wonderful producers, Emily Fitzgerald and Jamie Klatell; Jonathan Roquemore and Gideon Jacobs, who helped us hugely with gear and logistics; Peggy Nolan and all of her students at Florida International University, who were amazing assistants; Maggie Steber at the University of Miami, who was an invaluable resource; the Standard hotel; and of course all of the people who worked with us in Florida and allowed us to photograph them and photograph with them.
Finally, none of this is possible without supporters like Pier 24 and Leica, who believe in independent authorship and are willing to take chances on experiments like this one. They’re amazing.