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Election 2020 portraits of voters in NYC Andrew Tess
Photography Andrew Tess

Polaroid portraits of voters on New York’s eerily quiet streets

Photographer Andrew Tess captured people on their way to the polls, boarded-up businesses, and messages of hope across the city

Right now, one of the most important elections of our lifetime is playing out in the US, as Joe Biden goes head to head with Donald Trump in a bid to take over as President of the United States. 

With things taking a turn for the chaotic after the polls closed last night, so far we’ve seen Trump falsely claim victory before all votes have been counted, a dead man win a seat in North Dakota, and Kanye West admit brief defeat after amassing only 60,000 votes – before announcing that yes, he’s going to run again in 2024 (le sigh).

With no real end in sight, as important swing states including Georgia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania continue to count their postal ballots, we’re rewinding to New York, 24 hours ago, and a much calmer picture. Taking his Polaroid camera out onto the streets of Brooklyn, photographer Andrew Tess spent the afternoon capturing people on their way to cast their vote, the young people who stepped up to volunteer at the polls, and the boarded up businesses he spotted along the way.

“There weren’t really any lines since most New Yorkers sent their votes in early, and the city overall was super quiet,” explains Tess of his time spent documenting the moment. “There was this general sense of stillness to everything. More buildings boarded up than I’ve ever seen – from salad bars, gyms, medical offices, and delis, to countless retail stores and even apartment buildings.” 

Stopping to speak to a number of his subjects, the overarching message of the day was that, whatever the result of the election, the fight continues. “However things turn out, we cannot become complacent,” said Brooklyn District Leader and activist Samuel Olivares. “It takes all of us to take action because, no matter who wins, things will not change by themselves. Trump’s tactics of stoking white supremacy and fear are working. We need to organise ourselves, organise our neighbours – we need to step up and envision the kind of society we want to see across the nation within our own communities.” 

Take a look through the portraits in the gallery above.