No question about it, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign — and, of course, his election — inspired millions across the globe. It has also generated a frenzy of Obama-mania merchandising, producing everything from action figures of the prez-elect to White House-worthy puppies.
Burlington photographer Evan Dempsey isn’t trying to capitalize on the victory so much as document it, taking his cue from Obama’s campaign slogan, “Yes we can.” Dempsey, 27, took it upon himself to make a “Yes we did” sign, and then find Obama voters in Burlington who would hold it up and pose for his camera. “The day of the election, I drove up and down Vermont, going to polling stations and documenting history,” he says. “After the election, I wanted to show how this election was different. After [Obama’s acceptance] speech, ‘Yes we did’ seemed like a well-rounded response.”
Dempsey took about 100 color photos of individuals from all walks of life, young and old, then packaged 50 of the portraits into a 7-inch-square book with the help of software on a self-publishing site called Blurb.com. His cost to produce each book is $24.95 — a price few are likely to shell out, no matter how moved by the message. But Dempsey, a New Jersey native who graduated from Johnson State College, is determined to find a way to get his book published more affordably. One local book packager recommended augmenting the photos with more editorial content, he notes. While the individual portraits are engaging on their own, they may eventually benefit from more context.
If he had his druthers, Dempsey would shoot portraits of Obama voters all across the country, further diversifying the faces in the book. He acknowledges that post-election fervor may give him only a “brief window” to sell the project. “But in the same respect,” he says, “I feel it will hold historic value.”
Meanwhile, he’s shopping the book around to local retail outlets. For more info, call Evan Dempsey at 922-5858.