“A Sign of the Times” is a photographic essay that studies the uncertain political atmosphere of the US after the November 2016 election. There was no question on both sides of the aisle that the nomination of Donald Trump would be a diversion from the political norm. This essay includes images from Standing Rock, the inauguration and the Women’s March in Washington DC amongst many others. These demonstrations were organized to bring light to social and environmental issues including climate change, indigenous peoples rights, racial injustice, women’s rights, health care, LGBT rights, environmental protection, and more.
He Can’t Build a Wall was the image that inspired the A Sign of the Times project. I was on my way to photograph the super-moon in San Francisco when I walked out of a Bart station and saw this man and his sign. It was November 14th, just a few days after Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States. I thought to myself, what an interesting time to be alive. I asked the gentleman if I could take his photo and that was the exact moment that I took the plunge into what would become “A Sign of the Times”
“Nasty Women Rise Up”
A Woman holds up a sign in response to a remark that Donald Trump made about Hillary Clinton during a debate while while she was talking about social security. The comment outraged women around the country who saw the remark as not only an attack on Clinton, but an attack on women as a whole. This image was taken at an anti Trump rally in San Francisco, twelve days after the 2016 election.
Ink runs down a protestors home made sign in the San Francisco rain. The weathered sign is symbol of how many people feel about the electoral college since it has failed them twice within a sixteen year period. Both George W Bush and Donald Trump lost the popular vote yet they were still elected president because of the electoral vote.
Donald Trump briefly floated the idea of a database of Muslim US citizens durning his campaign. The soon to be president backed away from the idea on the campaign trail but shortly after taking office Trump signed an Executive Order that banned foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries which went into action immediately causing havoc amongst immigrant families. The Supreme Court eventually shot down the ban but after some tweaking, but the president was able to get the ban of six predominantly muslim countries through the Supreme Court.
SF Divestment March
In the months of October and November of 2016 the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters experienced an extremely violent police force at the Oceti Sakowin camp in South Dakota. The camp was constructed to resist the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline being built underneath the tribe’s drinking water source. In Late November and early December divestment marches were held across the country which were aimed at divesting money from the large banks that were funding the pipeline. Marchers were encouraged to put their money into local credit unions.
A Dakota Access Pipeline protester is arrested for taking part in a blockade at the Federal Building in San Francisco California. About twenty people in total were briefly arrested and cited for taking part in the demonstration.
Among the great plains of the United States lies the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. In 1868 the Fort Laramie treaty was drafted to give the Native Americans all of present day South Dakota west of the Missouri River. This area was known as the Great Sioux Nation. In 1877, less than ten years later congress removed the Black Hills from the reservation and in March of 1889 divided the Great Sioux Nation into six separate reservations including the Standing Rock Reservation. This act greatly reduced the size of the reservation and opened it up to settlement by non-Native Americans.
In the autumn of 2016 the Standing Rock Tribe fell into government crosshairs again. This time it was the reservation’s water supply that was being threatened. Texas based oil company Energy Transfer Partners built a pipeline on the original Great Sioux Nation land. The pipeline goes directly underneath Lake Oahe and the Missouri river just outside of the present Standing Rock Reservation. Should a leak occur, millions of people’s drinking water could be affected.
Thousands of people of every ethnicity traveled to Standing Rock beginning in July 2016. They called themselves water protectors and built a peaceful prayer camp called Oceti Sakowin near the drill site. Tensions between water protectors and police escalated in November when attack dogs were used without warrant. A few weeks later water canons were used in extremely cold weather causing hypothermic conditions.
The camp lasted through the new year until a threatening flood caused the camp to dismantle. The controversial project created the largest pipeline protest in the world and became the subject of much scrutiny from environmentalists and humanitarians alike. Although the Army Corps of Engineers denied the easement needed to finish the pipeline on December 4th, Energy Transfer Partners had said that they intended to finish the project. On January 24th, just four days after Donald Trump took office, he signed an executive order giving the green light to the Dakota Access pipeline as well as the Keystone XL which Obama had denied under his presidency.
The Pipe line was completed in April of 2017 and oil began to flow on May 14th 2017. The Standing Rock Tribe filed a lawsuit in July of 2016 against Energy Transfer Partners and The Army Corps Of Engineers. As of November 2018 the fait of the pipeline is still tied up in courts.
Tropix Knight is a Navajo Native American as well as an eight year Marine Corps veteran. She traveled to South Dakota from Hard Rock Arizona with her teenage daughter to stand with a group of nearly 5,000 veterans who were standing up for clean water and Native American rights at Standing Rock.
Dan Nanamkin is part of the Nez Perce Tribe in Washington state. Here he is seen in his traditional people’s dress after a prayer ceremony that took place in the Oceti Sakowin camp on December 11th. He was drumming in zero degree weather with only moccasins for footwear. The spirt within the camp was hopeful even-though the future looked grim. I took a few photos Dan. These were the only images that I shot on film at Standing Rock.
Joshua Fishman traveled to North Dakota from Vermont. He says that he came to Standing Rock because we need to change the narrative of our past in addition to protecting the future for our children not forgetting to leave out that he would like to be grandpa one day. “It’s you and me doing this. It’s up to every one of us and we have to do our very best. Start by doing little things. Start questioning things. If we start questioning things we might be able to find and answer for tomorrow but first we have to start questioning today.” We have to talk to each other about this. We can’t figure it out on our own.”
Sacramento Electoral College Protest
On December 18th 2016, demonstrators in all fifty states gathered at their state capitol buildings to urge their electors to vote in consistency with the American Public who nominated Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes more than Donald Trump. At the end of the day the electors would not be persuaded and Donald Trump would officially be slated to become the 45th President of the United States.
Inauguration Day Jan 20th 2017
A make America Great sign hangs in front of a fenced in vacant patch of grass during Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20th 2017.
A row of police officers protect the parade route that Donald Trump would take to the White House after his inauguration.
Trump supporters filled bleachers on one side of the parade route while protestors occupied the other side of the street.
Women’s March Jan 20th 2017
Just one day after Trump’s inauguration the historic women’s march took place in DC, but the demonstration didn’t stop there. Sister marches happened simultaneously across the globe totaling numbers between three and four million participants.