(Originally posted: 1/26/17)
Strangers on the Mall: Jan. 20th and 21st by Erin Pearlman
We have a very special Staunchly today, my sweets.
Erin Pearlman is a photographer who specializes in weddings and informal displays of everyday love. She also happens to be one of my dearest friends.
Erin is kind, colorful, disarming, and as sizzly sweet as a pop rock. She makes every other person who has ever been described as “bubbly” look like tap water. She also has a delightful disregard for boundaries and a seriously dirty sense of humor and within five minutes of meeting you, will know more about your sins than your priest. I have to imagine it’s these qualities which combine to make her such an incredible photographer (and an outrageous guest at parties).
Last week, Erin traveled to DC, where she attended the Inauguration and participated in the Women’s March. Erin has graciously collected some of her favorite photos from each event for Staunchly. She has also written short essays to accompany the sets, describing the tone and texture of both days as she experienced them.
I’m thrilled to present Strangers on the Mall: Jan. 20th and 21st by Erin Pearlman—two photo stories from two very different events, separated by a day, remarkable in their contrast.
After you’re finished viewing, make sure to check out Erin’s website and follow her on Instagram.
by Erin Pearlman
Last weekend I went to DC for the Women’s March with my mom and sister. Mom booked our flight within a couple days of the election, emphatic that we openly resist this new administration. I was excited. I could feel the momentum building the closer we got to the weekend of January 20th.
We hadn’t planned on going to the Inauguration, but I insisted. It felt important. I pleaded with my family. We need to see both sides, I told them. I don’t know if I believed that as much as I knew I could get some revealing photos out of it all.
We blasted Hamilton in the car from Baltimore and drove as close to the National Mall as we could get. We arrived at the Washington Monument just as the new President was beginning his speech.
I wore a red beret that day. I think I knew it would help me assimilate. I snuck away from my family and into the crowd. This was my chance to play photojournalist and document history as it unfolded. I wasn’t there to pass judgment. I was there to blend in.
I didn’t listen to his speech, though my ears perked at the word carnage because I thought that was an odd word to use on a day like this. I focused instead on the people, gathered in spotty patches on the dead grass. I took pictures of parents and their children, young boys climbing trees, old men in camo pants and bright red hats.
They did not seem happy. For the most part, they were quiet and seemed angry or sad. The drizzling rain didn’t help. Maybe it was just the crowd I was with, in the back. Maybe the true devotees were in the front. But I felt no sincere passion or joy on a day where one would expect to be surrounded by uncontained excitement and enthusiasm.
What I could feel was a desperate sense of hope—their expectation that a man I understood to be terrifying, fascist, racist, sexist, and deeply unkind would save them. I found the whole thing heartbreaking but not in the way I anticipated.
At one point in the day, a woman I was photographing asked me if I voted for him. I lied and said I didn’t vote. Just to stay in their circle a little longer.
The Women's March
By Erin Pearlman
One of the main reasons I wanted to go to the Inauguration was because I knew that the devastation and sadness that darkened the day for my family would make the beauty and richness of the Women’s March that much more profound.
It goes without saying that the two events were completely different. Where there had been gray the day before, there was so much color. The spirit, vitality, good humor, and love was unlike anything I've ever witnessed in my lifetime. Marching where so many others had marched before added an emotional weight to the experience, and swarms of beaming faces circled the day in warmth, kindness, humor, and light. It was joyful; it was radical; and it was hopeful in a way the Inauguration could never be.