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Conventions to Match a Surreal Year


This year’s conventions were not typical ones for photographers to shoot. Absent the massive crowds, bustling auditoriums and balloon fanfare of conventions past, they were left staring at candidates through a screen.

ImageJoe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee.

But for some photographers, like Devin Oktar Yalkin, this proved an opportunity to pull texture from a flat screen. Unable to physically capture his subjects, he embraced the physical nature of pixels. With long exposures, he caught the movement of some subjects as they stood at the podium. For others, he shot the subjects as he would in a portrait session. But the challenge was to find moments of stillness while the subjects were talking and, in some cases, yelling.

It’s not easy to capture a moment of stillness during the conventions. Viewers across the country encountered simultaneous streams of speeches and streams of commentary on Twitter. Every action onscreen had an equal and often opposite reaction on Twitter, with pundits, journalists and historians jumping in. As Democratic and Republican speakers evoked diverging images of America, they largely looked similar on the screen: heads behind podiums.

In 2020, photos are no longer necessarily fact. As deep fakes abound and misinformation streams onto our devices, photos have a fresh political heft. Mr. Yalkin leans into the surreal nature of political photos in a surreal year.


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