Art & Design

In the Hamptons, Taking Selfies With Trump and Clinton Cut-Outs

  • Art exhibition charts tech-driven evolution of election photos
  • ‘I guarantee you more people will take a picture with Trump’

In the new exhibition “Winning the White House” at the Southampton Arts Center, the lure of the life-size cut-outs of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is powerful.

At the opening on Aug. 6, visitors skipped through galleries to take a selfie.

“I guarantee you more people will take a picture with Trump,” said Mark Lubell, executive director of the International Center of Photography, which assembled the show. “Whether you like him or don’t like him, he’s the one everyone will want to take a picture with, and then send it out to their social networks, as a joke or a this or a that. Which is why Trump has been ahead of the game, at least from the other Republican candidates.”

Selfies at an exhibition
Selfies at an exhibition
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

All summer, the election has been a hot topic along the beaches, sidewalks and dinner tables of this tony hamlet, as it is everywhere. The nonprofit arts center tapped the ICP to help vacationers and locals process the campaign through the comfortable distance of cultural and historical photography. The free show, open Thursday to Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., runs until Sept. 11.

“Who’s going to win?” asked 10-year-old William Loreti-Schachter as he posed between the cut-outs, his arms out and shoulders shrugged. Bernie Sanders’s visage was off to the side.

“Where’s Gary Johnson and Jill Stein?” asked the boy’s mother, Felice Schachter. “Enough with the two parties. I’m a fan of politics but a disgruntled voter.”

The show starts with television footage of the debate between JFK and Nixon in 1960 -- the one, as ICP president Jeffrey Rosen described during the opening, that people watching on TV thought Kennedy won and people listening on the radio thought Nixon won. The show then explores the impact of cable news and the internet, depositing visitors in a room with the cut-outs, wallpapered with selfies taken from social media.

Susan Carlson, Claartje van Djik, Mark Lubell, Renee Harbers Liddell and Christopher Liddell
Susan Carlson, Claartje van Djik, Mark Lubell, Renee Harbers Liddell and Christopher Liddell
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

“You see this trajectory of all these technologies that have accumulated over the past 50 years, and now is this moment of explosion of everything at once,” said Susan Carlson, assistant curator of ICP.

One graphic presents the number of followers Trump and Clinton have, as of July 20, across platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Trump is ahead in every category but YouTube.

Carlson and Claartje van Dijk put together the show. The sponsors are Christopher Liddell and his wife Renee Harbers Liddell, a board member of ICP, who also helped bring last year’s ICP show to the arts center on another timely topic -- Cuba.

As for iconic images now? “It used to be you shake a hand and kiss a baby and you hopefully got that on the press,” said Lubell. “Now you get a selfie with someone, it’s better than shaking that hand. You just shook 200 people’s hands, and it means more if you see that image from a friend.”

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