20 Powerful Images From The Last Election

20 Powerful Images From The Last Election

4 years ago my good friend Reese Allen happened to be in D.C. on a photoshoot during the last presidential election. At night, Reese hit the streets and captured some pretty incredible images. 

Reese tried his best to get a media pass but when he was denied he decided to shoot anyway, without special access. As it turned out, Reese was actually able to capture more compelling images than those who did have media access because he was not confined to one small area.

"In 2008 I was fortunate to land an assignment in Chicago shooting a Kimpton Hotel the same week as the election. I knew months in advance that I was going to have an opportunity to capture unique moments in history-regardless of who won.

As the hotel began filling up with bloggers, writers and news photographers, I tried to call in some favors with friends who shoot for the NY Daily News, Getty Images, etc. to get press credentials to the northern part of Grant Park. After much effort, I resigned myself to the realty that there would be no ticket to the main event for a wedding photographer! So I moved to plan B knowing I would be hanging out with all the “commoners” who would be crowded into the other side.

In my fifteen years doing photography, my mantra has been that if someone is standing next to you with a camera shooting the same thing, you’re probably not in the right place. With this in mind, I was considering setting
up a studio lighting station and doing some full length, perfectly lit portraits-but there was no power and schlepping a generator downtown wasn’t feasible. I decided to go as light as possible. I also had no idea whether I would be able to get into the park looking too professional and without a press pass.

Earlier in the day, I took a taxi to Obama’s precinct in an effort to get something different. I ended up talking with a polling station worker who captured Obama on her cell phone walking into the voting booth-even though this is a bit different type of cell phone photography-picture of an actual cell phone; I was confident that nobody else had this photograph? I kept looking for images throughout Chicago, but everything seem too contrived; usually between moments, I can shoot details or a fun portrait of the ring bearer in order to tell a story of the day. Some of the daytime Portraits were part of the atmosphere in and around the city.

Following much deliberation, I headed out with one small camera bag, my new Nikon D-700 and a handful of memory cards in order to capture history. Once inside the park, it was a surreal environment. Perhaps I looked the part, maybe it was the grey hair or my confident stride, but I gained access inside the roped areas and roamed wherever I wanted to capture these images.

As the night moved on, I studied almost everyone in order to be prepare for the moment the winner was announced. All the years spent photographing weddings, ceremonies, environmental portraits and composing architecture went into capturing these historic photographs; most of which I have never shown to anyone until now.

Once I returned to the hotel, the atmosphere was energized with those who spend their lives creating news. All the photographers with credentials informed me they were so far away from the President giving his speech, unable to move from the bleachers and only able to get images on their 400mm zoom lenses-which still weren’t that effective. Turns out that being denied credentials was one of the best things that could’ve happened!

However “sentimental” this may sound, although this glimpse of epic moments in history are compelling, I believe the portraits and weddings stories captured over the last four years by myself and others are equally as meaningful in telling the story of America-one family at a time."

-Reese Allen



















Want to see more? Check them out on Reese's website.

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What makes these images powerful? Monochrome, massive vignettes, recurring content and odd processing choices?  Come on fstoppers. There are some great photographs here, but they're lost in a sea of mediocrity. 

Mark Kauzlarich's picture

A number of repeat photos in here, for all intents and purposes. Like the Grant Park images (the one with the people in the trees is better). Also, three of the same purpose. Jimi Hendrix and the last photo aren't additive, and a picture of the Sun Times doesn't do anything. There are a few nice photos, but its a matter of being a good editor of your work or have someone else go over it so you don't show more than is effective, or else your first impression is lessened.

They're ok, but certainly not true photojournalism. The instant you start adding artistic filters to your photos such as the vignettes that yellowing filter and such, they are no longer considered photojournalism the the whole series becomes suspect. Hard news photos cannot be edited in that fashion. There are a few ok photos here, but just that. Easily gotten in about 10 minutes by any average photojournalist.
Oh, and a photograph of a photograph on the cover of a magazine? Really??? Give me a break!!!

Thanks for the comments...You're right that there is a lot of duplicates and some are vignetted too much, so I appreciate the feedback and probably should have edited them down.  There is a more comprehensive collection of photos on the personal section of my website-(although even more duplicates).  I am glad you mentioned the tree image as I thought that was one of the more subtle shots from the event and one of my favorites; the other image that photographers I respect seem to remember was the shot of the paper in front of the door.  I am not a photojournalist, but I am proud of these images and believe that two or three of them that are perfect in defining that moment in history?  Thanks again for the comments and I will edit them down if I show them again. 

Also, I am not a photojournalist (I was the backstage fashion photographer in one of Lee's first videos from Charleston Fashion Week), I just happened to be in town shooting architecture...I would be interested to know if you have seen other photo's from Grant Park so I can see what others captured?  I have never studied true photojournalism, which this was not, but why can't you crop, burn/dodge and do other creative edits?  In looking back, I do agree that my yellow/cross process effect looks dumb and out of place-LOL.  I suppose that including all the extras that Mark mentioned (and the cover of the Sun Times) waters down the good stuff-which happened in a period of about ten minutes once they announced the winner?   

Ronan O'Dornan's picture

Well Said Reese. Most of the readers on here are judgemental assholes. The photos are great and edit them how you see fit now how someone else tells you to edit them. this is the problem with our industry at the minute. the judging and arguing that goes on among photographers. its an art form......this is reese work......so congratulate him on what you liked and shut the hell up about what you didn't. As a collection of photos documenting the election results i think you have done really well and im impressed. even in the "you can do no right" climate we have here. FS need more credit for providing content and articles like this instead of people whining all the time. if you dont like it dont slate it. simple. keeps everyone happy. constructive criticism is fine but its also an opinion so bear that in mind!

Jacques's picture

The photo of the newspaper in front of the door looks as if the newspaper was either added afterwards or the cover on the newspaper.  Perhaps it is not, but it looks unreal.