By Seth Daniel
Since September, gigantic close ups of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have graced the front windows of the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) on Arlington Street in Bay Village, and the reactions have ranged from happy, to angry to confused.
Not much different than how most are reacting to the upcoming election next week, Nov. 8.
The photos are part of a much larger, and perhaps the most comprehensive, exhibit of presidential campaign photos from the last several election cycles taken by photographers from the Boston Press Photographers Association (BPPA) – shooters than often have great access to the campaigns due to the proximity to candidate-heavy New Hampshire.
At the front desk of the BCAE, Taryn Valpey gets most of the initial reactions.
“The first reactions I get are pretty interesting,” she said. “The one that I remember is a man who was walking by a very large picture of Donald Trump and he stopped, looked surprised and said, ‘Oh no, I haven’t had time to digest my food yet.’ I’ve had a lot of people come in to enjoy the photographs and people definitely have very different experiences.”
Tom Formicola, director of education, and Sabrina Rossi Vigue, director of external affairs, said the exhibit was for the purpose of getting people talking and getting them interested in the BCAE – and the goal has certainly been accomplished.
“These photos are stopping people in their tracks,” said Formicola. “We’re getting a lot of people who are stopping in to see the point of them. Once they come in, they look at all the rest of them. That’s really the purpose of these arts events that we have. We want people to come in and enjoy the art and learn about who the BCAE is and what we do.”
The photographs are a must see for anyone who is gearing up for voting this Nov. 8, or for anyone who has had it with the typical images.
Arranged by Stephen Savoia, president of the BPPA, and Vin Alabiso, curator of the ‘Presidential Hopefuls in the 21st Century’ exhibit, the photos revisit the coverage of the current election and those of the past – including showing candidates in unique positions and candidates that one might have forgotten about (ahem, like maybe John Huntsman; and remember when Rand Paul was a key figure in the current election?).
“We have 13 photographers represented with 83 photographs picked out of 908 submissions covering elections from 2000 to 2016,” said Vigue. “They have arranged them into groupings that are very well thought out. There are some really playful things that have come from the groupings. They are arranged in a way to where they comment on each other a bit. It’s a little more interesting and something you might have seldom seen in the newspaper.”
For instance, one grouping of photos has Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, John Huntsman and Rand Paul standing on things like chairs, wagons and podiums.
Another grouping shows multiple candidates cooking; or a grouping of candidates posing for ‘selfies’; and yet another – the final grouping – shows the candidates handing guns, the candidates being Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Lindsay Graham.
“One thing they don’t do is delineate a political point of view at all in the show; you’d be hard pressed to find one,” said Formicola. “They’re very proud of that.”
Formicola said he is very excited about all of the attention that the photos have brought, as well as the interesting discussions.
“It’s brought a lot of positive energy to the center,” he said. “It’s not secret we want to get people though the door and that they find the energy of the building. We’re very proud of it and when it’s full and people are taking classes, there is an energy here. We want people to come through he doors and find that energy here, look at these amazing photos, and then maybe come back to take a class.”
‘Presidential Hopefuls in the 21st Century: Photos That Tell Stories.’ will run through January 2017, and is free and open to the public during business hours. For more information, please visit www.bcae.org.
As part of the exhibition, the BCAE will be hosting ‘What Just Happened? Debriefing an Unconventional Election’ with Boston Globe Political Editor Shira T. Center.