You don’t have to look very hard to find a headline describing a ludicrous new development in global politics. Whether it’s Donald Trump tweeting about buying Greenland or Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament, absurd – and utterly irresponsible – rhetoric is rife in today’s political landscape. This is what photographer Lauren Lancaster captures in her series Patriots, which documents the goings-on of the right-wing presidential primary in 2012. The images may have been shot several years ago, but the message lives on: politics is as ridiculous as ever.
“The Patriots series developed organically as I was covering the 2012 Republican Primaries for The New Yorker. I had recently moved back to New York after living in Abu Dhabi for few years,” Lauren tells It’s Nice That. “All the images were made in and around the Republican Convention and various political rallies leading up to the primary elections. It was a fascinating moment in politics within the US. Still for me, these photographs are less about politics and more my reaction to a part of America I had not seen or experienced for some time.”
Through various high flash photographs of women with styled hair and “pro-life” badges and men wearing caps with “coal = jobs” printed on them, Lauren shows a side of American politics that has today become all too familiar. With attacks on Roe v. Wade in Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky, and Trump’s rolling back of several environmental rules, Lauren’s America has sadly – over the past few years – taken centre stage.
“I looked for images that represented what it felt like to be among those crowds,” Lauren says. “But also the redundancy of the political signage and decorations pushed me to focus more on individual expressions. The context is obviously a political one but I was more interested in seeing what happens to human nature inside that political bubble. I hope the series reflects the absurdity that these intense political environments can foster.” Lauren had previously studied history and anthropology and pursued a postgraduate in underwater shipwreck archaeology; she worked on terrestrial archaeology projects all over middle America and in Kenya and worked on shipwreck excavations in Turkey and Bulgaria. But Lauren finally decided to photograph “the present than studying the past”.
More recently, Lauren has been working on Ephemera a collaborative book project alongside Christina Moon, an assistant professor in fashion studies and Parsons. Utilising Lauren’s eye for mammoth detail, the story hones in on “the emerging fast fashion in Los Angeles alongside a Korean wholesale clothing community,” the photographer tells us. “This is where the retail empire Forever 21 came from, and at a time when both fashion and beauty industries and trends were proliferating throughout Asia, more specifically South Korea.”
Jumping between portraits taken in both the US and South Korea, as a result the series so far demonstrates her investigative eye for politics in a totally different, but equally fascinating, industry. Therefore by photographically tracking “the rise of the fast fashion industry across LA, Seoul, and NYC along with the decline of manufacturing processes in the US,” Ephemera – and of course Patriots too -shows Lauren as a photographer whose lens places storytelling first.