With the rise of sexual misconduct accusations towards President Donald J. Trump, photographer Allaire Bartel uses her platform to illuminate on his unaddressed behavior through representation via photography. Upon the 22 accusations of sexual misconduct against Trump, many involved his positions throughout his life, not limited to pageant owner, golfer, campaigner, and now President. From her website which you can find here, Bartel writes in regards to her latest project, Boundaries II.
My hope is that these photographs cast these accusations in a new light and show the gravity of them in a way that a news story can’t. They are my plea to everyone who sees them to not only go out and vote, but to vote armed with knowledge, empathy, and purpose.Allaire Bartel for Boundaries
Here at Resource Magazine, we asked Bartel on her thoughts surrounding her most recent Boundaries II piece and more.
Resource Magazine: Your intention is very clear regarding how you decided to approach your project. It’s a difficult intersection, politics where politics should not be an issue, and art. With how impartial and far-reaching the content matter is, have you received any responses that attempt to shut down or debase what you demonstrated in Boundaries II? If so, how have you responded to them?
Allaire Bartel: I did receive the response that the project is essentially partisan propaganda and that by only focusing on one political figure it doesn’t look at the whole picture or acknowledge the sexual assault/harassment allegations leveled against Democrats. In a sense that’s true; taken literally, the series illustrates the many allegations against Trump, that is so consistent his guilt hardly seems to be a question, and yet he’s faced no consequences and remains in office. I hold Republicans responsible for that. But in a broader sense, the series illustrates putting politics before people and only believing or pursuing action regarding sexual assault allegations when politically convenient, and I think representatives and voters from both parties are guilty of that. So I believe the photos can be commentary on the man, the party, and the problem as a whole simultaneously.
RM: At what point did you decide that this project is something you wanted to pursue? The deferred public and media response concerning sexual misconduct here in our own government is very disturbing, let alone anywhere around our nation and the world. I was wondering if there was any other motivation that led to this project?
AB: I think it was when I learned, not too far into the #MeToo movement, that a majority of Trump voters did believe the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, but an overwhelming majority did not believe or were uncertain about the allegations against Trump. This report stuck with me and got me thinking about the phenomenon of only believing survivors when politically convenient, and I knew I could represent this is a powerful way.
RM: With how frustrating the subject matter is, did you find it difficult to move into some territory based on your own reactions to his actions? Did you find reacting to his actions personally a pivotal part of Boundaries II?
AB: I think my personal point of view must be crucial to an extent because while there are plenty of people who disapprove of his actions, I don’t think as many would say so in such an overt way. It’s a combination of my strong belief in the subject matter and, I think, willingness to create work that’s openly challenging, kind of shocking and difficult to look at, with the precedence of the first Boundaries project already having a format available for me to build on. But while the project was sparked by frustration, the process of putting it together took a lot of careful consideration and planning and doesn’t feel anything like a knee-jerk, emotional reaction.
How to present the subject matter, what to include and leave out, the technical execution of the photos, and what responses may come up and how to react to them were all factors to consider. Additionally, I experienced a fair amount of negative backlash to the first Boundaries, and it takes some mental discipline to know that you could potentially be setting yourself up for that again and to follow through anyway. On top of all of that, I needed and absolutely relied on a great team that had to both feel strongly about the subject matter and be willing to put themselves out there in the same way. So to summarize, I think my beliefs and background were crucial to the project, as well as those of my team, but all of our combined skills and hard work beyond our beliefs were equally crucial.
RM: Finally, I know Boundaries I dealt with a similar theme of sexual misconduct and harassment via different personal lives and normative roles of women, ranging from a woman at home or in public. It’s frustrating and unsettling how issues of sexual misconduct especially in the workplace are seen as a partisan issue. With this subject hot in politics and debated by both men and women alike, will there be a Boundaries III in the works? If so, what will it envision for a 2019 audience?
AB: I don’t have a concrete plan for my next installment just yet, but I do think I’ll continue to expand the project. Unfortunately, it feels like I could continue Boundaries indefinitely, keep exploring new subject matter, and it will always remain relevant. My interest is to continue to focus on instances of sexual assault and harassment within institutions, where the power of the institution takes precedence over the well-being of the people affected. With that in mind, I’m currently considering the Catholic Church, ICE detention centers, and the American prison system…and I’m open to suggestions!