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The Antelope



Loeffler documents ‘Trumps America’ to bring understanding of Trump voters

Sydney Norris

Antelope Staff

The aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election caused some confusion for both political parties. People from both sides were questioning the reasons behind certain opinions, which in the end created tension. Through this confusion and chaos, a research project was born in hopes to educate and bring to life the people in “Trump’s America”.

Paxton senior Cheyanne Loeffler, a photography major, was approached by Derrick Burbul, UNK professor of photography, to take on a research project in the summer of 2017. This research project, however, is unlike any other. It is a project meant not to change opinions but mainly to educate the public and bring them face-to-face with Trump voters in Nebraska.

“My only expectation I had for this project was for my own personal growth and to get others to take a moment and pause in the mess of politics today and to think of the individuals,” Loeffler said.

Loeffler documented “Trump’s America” and photographed the people from rural towns in Nebraska who voted for Trump.

“The whole process was incredibly humbling, and I feel like I have grown so much more as an individual and human being,” Loeffler said. “I feel like these photographs were able to capture the essence of who these people are and emphasize them as individuals.”

To capture the focus of Trump’s America through an artistic series of photographs, Loeffler planned to have the subjects stand in front of something that is important to them. In this case, it may be a small business, a farm or something they may do on the weekends. In these photographs, Loeffler’s hope was to put a face to the side that has been portrayed as closed-minded. Her photos are to recognize the people behind the votes, to “personalize and humanize them.”   

Loeffler’s favorite photograph was of Corey Turner, a teacher and father of two girls from Paxton “He is one of my interviewees that really made me take a step back, and think,” Loeffler said. “He is an avid believer in political representatives who aren’t there to serve themselves and their own agenda. He also believes that even though you may not like the person sitting in the president’s chair, you still need to respect that office.”

Loeffler said she believes it is important “to bring awareness of the different mindsets.”  Her original hope with this project was to bring an understanding to a different perspective, upon all who see.

“For this project, I had to structure my questions and my approach because I didn’t want to be intrusive,” Loeffler said. She said she sees how the elections polarized the two parties , and her work is to see that everyone is still human, no matter the difference in opinion.

“Once I pitched my idea, everyone seemed incredibly happy to be approached from an angle of wanting to listen, rather than arguing or counter attacking every point.”

One of Loeffler’s significant findings was a deeper understanding of the way people react.  Everyone bases their decisions around their need to thrive, which is seen differently by every single person. “Everyone is just trying to survive to the best of their abilities, and making sure that their loved ones are just as comfortable,” Loeffler said.

As the professor who is helping Loeffler with this project, Burbul hopes this project will help put things into perspective for Loeffler but also bring an understanding to where we are culturally in the town of Kearney and to show the difference in perspectives in the state of Nebraska alone.

“I believe she did a good job in allowing the process to help her create the project. What I mean by that, is she did not dictate the image to the subjects she interviewed and photographed; she listened to them and worked with them to create an expression I believe all parties are pleased with, and she created photographs that allow the viewer to participate in that dialogue,” Burbul said. “That is, ultimately, what I believe art to be: a dialogue.”

Loeffler is happy with outcome of her project and looks forward to continuing the project and focusing on the other side. “I am incredibly thrilled with how the project worked out, and I can’t wait to continue this project further with the more left side this fall, in my independent study,” Loeffler said.

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