These Photos of Diverse American Voters Will Surprise You
All photos by Naomi Harris
Travel

These Photos of Diverse American Voters Will Surprise You

Looks can be deceiving.
June 6, 2017, 1:36pm

This story appears in the June issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

There's perhaps nothing more American than the road trip. In the arts, it has taken a sort of mythical quality—John Steinbeck's Joads traveled to California in pursuit of a better life, Bob Dylan revisited Highway 61, and Jack Kerouac famously wrote On the Road in three weeks, in a flurry that seemed to capture the spontaneity and uncertainty of the trip itself. Naomi Harris, a self-proclaimed wanderer, is no stranger to this experience, either. A native of Canada, she has gone across her country documenting its oldest person, the world's largest coffee pot, and albino twins; she spent nine months traversing the US before she became an official citizen; and next year, she's planning a ten-week canoe ride throughout Ontario, where she will retrace the fur traders' route.

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For our Salute Your Shorts Issue, Harris continued this tradition, setting out to chronicle Trump's first 100 days in office. She went out West and then circled back, photographing people and asking why they voted the way they did. She often slept in Walmart parking lots. She had, really, only her dog to keep her company.

One hundred days is, of course, an arbitrary metric. Since April 29, Trump has fired FBI director James Comey, taken his first trip abroad, and introduced a vague (and perhaps mathematically unsound) tax proposal. He's still struggling to repeal Obamacare, signing executive orders, and dealing with the investigation into Russia's alleged influence in the election. He's still tweeting. And there are more days to come.

Below Harris describes her motivation for the project, in her own words.

Liz Renstrom & Alex Norcia

On November 8, 2016, Election Day, I was aboard a flight from Los Angeles to Paris to celebrate my mother's birthday and attend an art fair. This election held particular importance for me, as it was the first I could vote in since becoming a US citizen in 2013 (I'm also Canadian). Though my candidate, Bernie Sanders, had lost the primary, I fully expected a Democrat to win. While I was half asleep, the pilot's voice came over the loudspeaker: Donald Trump was the new president-elect. There were a few audible gasps; some passengers cheered. For the remaining two hours, the silence was deafening.

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Whether it was jet lag or disbelief, I felt like I was in a fog. My Facebook feed was immediately filled with despair, and I knew my friends were taking it hard. And then I started watching the news, and a question—the first question that always arises when someone's about to be sworn in—kept popping up: What would happen in the first 100 days of the new administration?

First coined in the 1930s by Franklin D. Roosevelt (though he was referring to the first 100 days of Congress, not his presidency), this measurement has become a way to initially evaluate what's to come. So, on January 20, the day Trump was to officially become the 45th president of the United States, I began a road trip across the country. During the 100 days I would be on the road, I hoped to figure out how the polls and the media got it all wrong. I wanted to talk to Americans—take their portraits—and find out how and why they voted.

Without a set itinerary, I began in Washington, DC, and drove around the nation, letting the news and weather dictate my journey. I first headed south to Palm Beach, Florida, and then made my way west, traveling along the border in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, to see where Trump proposed building the wall. I got as far as Northern California and turned around, going through the Bible and Rust Belts, photographing in 19 states total. I ended my project on the hundredth day, April 29, in Niagara Falls, New York, crossing over the Rainbow Bridge into Canada.

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I was surprised to discover that most of the people I met were less optimistic about Trump and more jaded by the political process as a whole. Many lifelong Democrats, I learned, just couldn't vote for Hillary Clinton. (They cited Benghazi, her emails, her exorbitant Wall Street speaker fees.) Republicans, even those who didn't take Trump seriously, couldn't bring themselves to do so either. Others thought the media didn't treat Sanders fairly; more still didn't like the direction the Democratic Party was going and where it continues to head.

It might best be summed up, though, by Daryl Davis, the musician, race-relations crusader, and star of the film Accidental Courtesy: When I photographed him, he compared America to a broken bone that, over the course of history, was never properly set. With Trump as president, the lingering problems of race, inequality, and freedom of expression are bubbling to the surface. "Sometimes the doctor just has to break that bone and reset it again," he said. "That's what needs to happen to America."

Wayne Byrd, president of the Heritage Preservation Association, and his wife, Susan. The group gathers every Saturday outside the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History to protest its removal of a Confederate flag, a gift from the association. They voted for Trump. Danville, Virginia. April 15, 2017

Rita Pamela Taylor lives on the border of Mexico. She leaves bottles of water in coolers outside her house for those who make it across. She met her Mexican American husband in England while he served during World War II, and she immigrated to the United States after the war. She voted for Trump. Brownsville, Texas. February 24, 2017

Jacob Mann, a 27-year-old security guard, used to work in coal mines. Though he voted Obama in the last election, he couldn't bring himself to vote for Clinton this time. Harlan, Kentucky. April 5, 2017

Angel Modersohn is a member of Overpasses for America, "a non-partisan" grassroots movement that values the US Constitution and seeks to have elected government officials represent its values. On this day, the group was voicing support for the president. She voted Trump. Kansas City, Missouri. March 26, 2017

Gabriel Carter, a Native American, was hitchhiking when I picked him up. He spends months at a time on the Grand Enchantment Trail proselytizing the word of Jesus, so he was unable to vote in this election, though he says he would have voted for Clinton. Along Highway 60, outside Socorro, New Mexico. March 8, 2017

Katelyn Brommel is one of the 6.1 million Americans unable to vote because of felony disenfranchisement. Though she would have voted for an independent, she said she would have chosen Clinton over Trump. Austin, Texas. February 18, 2017

Bob and Sharon Colvin live in one of the poorest cities in America, in Palm Beach County, the same county where Mar-a-Lago, or the "Winter White House," is located. Staunch Christians, they believe Trump was preordained to win, and that he'll ultimately bring Jesus back. Pahokee, Florida. February 4, 2017

Faron Floyd, of American Airboats Corps., feels business has already improved since his candidate, Trump, won the election. The "Swamp Thing" that stands outside his shop was decorated with this Trump sign during the campaign. Orange, Texas. February 13, 2017

James Watson (left) and Jeremiah Perry (right), both lifelong Republicans, sit in Perry's new car outside the liquor store where Michael Brown was last seen. They both agreed that had a woman been running on the Republican ticket, they wouldn't have voted for her. (They wouldn't, in fact, vote for a woman at all.) They were for Trump. Ferguson, Missouri. March 27, 2017

Neither River Song (right) nor her fiancée, Tiffany Booe (left), voted. Song thought both candidates were "bad," and Booe, an ex-Marine with a felony charge, cannot vote. They are scared that Kentucky is going to follow in North Carolina's footsteps in terms of the "bathroom bill." Louisville, Kentucky. April 4, 2017

Roger Frederick, a member of Overpasses for America, isn't shy about whom he voted for. Kansas City, Missouri. March 26, 2017

When asked about her preferred candidate, Nan Harper, who works at Island Realty, emphatically shouted, "Donald Trump!" Pensacola Beach, Florida. February 9, 2017

David Kostya, 56, is a proud union man and has worked at the same aluminum company for the past 38 years, a job he began four days after graduating high school. Since starting to vote at 20, he has picked a Democrat in every presidential election. But not this time: Like many other blue-collar workers, he went Trump. Cleveland, Ohio. April 28, 2017

Geneva Oconnor, an Army vet, carries her ID with her everywhere. She's been stopped for deportation numerous times by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials who think she's Mexican; she's Native American. She likes to say that she's more American than they are. She cast her ballot for Clinton. San Antonio, Texas. February 21, 2017

Angela Anderson, seen here selling Valentine's Day gifts in her neighborhood, worked the election polls. She's from the same town as the Colvins. She eagerly told me, "I'm with her!" Pahokee, Florida. February 4, 2017

Ray Paredes is a manager for an adult day-care center and a part-time rodeo clown. Being in the healthcare system, he felt it needed an overhaul. Though he is Hispanic, he felt America was ready for a change. He picked Trump. Alpine, Texas. March 3, 2017

Jessi Bergkvist, 26, is a single mother with three daughters, all under the age of four. She's proud to raise them all on her own: She works odd jobs and cleans houses. She voted for Trump. Pie Town, New Mexico. March 8, 2017

Alicia and Allen Alejandro, newlyweds in their 20s, play hooky at an abandoned trailer park on the bank of the Rio Grande. They told me that sometimes a cartel has gunfights right here in this very spot. They supported Clinton. Chapeno, Texas. February 28, 2017

Lilly Elkin, a graduate student studying environmental biology, stands in Overland Park with her pet snakes Eago and Cleo. She is skeptical about parts of the global-warming debate. She voted for Trump. Memphis, Tennessee. April 1, 2017