Photographer Martin Parr takes an unconventional look at the GOP convention
He compared the enthusiasm to that of a One Direction concert or the Beatles in the 1960s
We’ve seen a lot so far at this week’s Republican National Convention, but there’s also plenty that has been going on off the stage each night.
While television provides us with clear-cut views of the speeches, photographer Martin Parr shows us the convention, unconventionally.
“Until you get to these things, you never quite know what you’re going to see,” Parr said before the convention started in Cleveland. “This is not boring, everyday life. This is people with extreme political convictions.”
The Magnum photographer, known for humorously capturing the quirks of British life, has never covered anything quite as politically focused.
“I come from Britain, where our politics are very different,” he said. “Each political party has a conference every year, but it’s nothing like this. They’re chalk and cheese. They’re so entirely different.”
What immediately struck Parr once he got to Cleveland were the Trump supporters. He says they’re much older than he would’ve thought and that many in attendance are women.
“The enthusiasm with which (the Republicans) embrace Donald Trump’s message is quite remarkable,” Parr said. “Some of these people are like teenage rock fans. I keep being reminded of the Beatles in the ‘60s and then people like One Direction. It’s like that.”
Parr says that the supporters seem to be “obsessive in their loyalty and fervor, doting of Mr. Trump,” and he believes their support won’t stop no matter what anyone may say about the Republican presidential nominee. “No one’s not going to vote for a Republican or for Trump because they think his wife’s speech was partly plagiarized,” he said.
This sort of obsessive nature extends beyond the Trump supporters, however. The same can be seen in the media covering the convention as well.
“The media itself, of course, is part of my subject matter,” Parr said. “They’re such an integral part of the scene. And some of them are absolute monsters – so pushy. Decorum breaks down in the media corps. There’s this dog-eat-dog atmosphere because there’s so many people. They’re all desperate to get, I suppose, the same thing really.”
And it’s also evident in the merchandising surrounding the convention. Just look at one of Parr images – No. 14 in the gallery above. A man is holding a bottle of hot sauce. Look closer, though. It’s not just any hot sauce. It’s “RNC 2016 Cleveland” hot sauce.
As Parr shows us, it’s as though everywhere we look, there exists an element of obsession to some degree – obsession for the RNC, obsession for reporting on the RNC, obsession for promoting the RNC.
Parr says that while it’s “very difficult” for him to be enthused for the Republican cause, the people he has met are “friendly, very charming and absolutely wonderful people to photograph.”
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One of Parr’s favorite moments was when Trump reached the necessary number of delegates to officially become the Republican Party’s nominee.
“That was a completely bonkers moment, where the whole thing erupts,” he said. “And this whole thing of Hillary going to prison is hilarious as well.”
In fact, Parr describes the entire RNC as “bonkers,” filled with moments reminiscent not just of rock concerts, but of Comedy Central.
“It’s so void of any sustenance and reality, but therefore very enjoyable,” he said about the convention. “What’s going to be interesting to see is how the Democrats are different. Whether they’re obsessive or whether the Republicans are in a tribe of their own.”