There’s something strangely similar between U.S. political conventions and a spiritual retreat: People travel from far and wide, spending their own money, to attend an event that they feel such a deep and significant connection to, that once they arrive there’s a widespread sense of awe and wonder that they’ve found themselves there.
Brendan Hoffman managed to really capture this sentiment with his photos from the Democratic National Convention earlier this September. “Upon entering the floor of the Time Warner Cable Arena, site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, I noticed a tendency delegates had of glancing up as an ethereal light caught their faces,” says Brendan. “These are the party faithful, those who spend their own money to travel to the convention to be with their own kind and bask in the warm fuzziness of common purpose and a common stance on a host of public policy issues.”
Brendan, who began his career as a freelance photographer in Washington D.C., was covering the DNC this year in Charlotte, North Carolina, trying “desperately to diminish the chaos and find a focus. I found a point where people enter the stands that had a clean concrete wall for a backdrop. The entire arena was lit for television, and after the delegates walked into the arena to find their seats, they’d all look up at the big monitor, which offered a view of whomever was speaking on stage.”
That combination of a solid backdrop, front and side lights, and upturned faces allowed Brendan to catch his subjects in a heavenly glow. “In the end I think the thread that ties the subjects together is that they are all doing what, in their minds, is one of the most constructive things they can do to help their country and maintain a healthy democracy,” notes Brendan. “It’s very easy to be cynical about politics, but here are people that seem to believe deep down that the American system is great and are acting on that belief.”
Many delegates also dress up and get extremely festive for the national conventions. And, because people come from all over the country, Brendan also aimed to capture the diversity of the delegates at the DNC. Interestingly enough, most of Brendan’s subjects probably weren’t aware that they were being photographed: “I think delegates who have been to a convention before understand that they are as much a part of the event as anyone speaking on stage; those who are new figure it out quickly,” says Brendan.
“It can be difficult to sort through the costumes and performances and find any sort of authenticity, so I hope I was able to do that with this series,” says Brendan.
To see the full series and more of Brendan’s work on covering news and politics, visit him at primecollective.com/features/hoffman.