This Toronto photographer captured the surreal strangeness of Donald Trump rallies

This Toronto photographer captured the surreal strangeness of Donald Trump rallies

Sarah_Palmer07 Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Sarah Palmer has just one question: what makes Americans support Donald Trump? Armed with a couple of Holga cameras, film and an overnight bag, the Toronto-based photographer rented a car, drove south and attended three rallies—in New York and Pennsylvania, and the Republican National Convention in Ohio—to find an answer. “In Canada, we’re all perplexed at what’s happening,” she says. “After all we’ve heard about Trump, I wanted to see what was true and what was blown out of proportion.” The result is Drunk on Trump, a collection of surreal, dreamlike multi-frame photos. We asked Palmer to share the stories behind some of her shots.

Sarah_Palmer04 Cleveland, Ohio.

“When Trump says things like ‘Hillary for prison,’ people just run with it. I got used to seeing this stuff, but when I got home, I was like, ‘Wow, these are really awful messages.’ They’re almost comical in a way. A lot of the vendors that I met aren’t necessarily Trump supporters. They just know people will buy this kind of merchandise. A lot of them were like, ‘I don’t support what I’m selling, but I’m selling it in order to make a living.’”


Sarah_Palmer05 Cleveland, Ohio.

“I saw the man on the left a lot during my four days at the convention. He was in demonstrations and mini-plays and rolled around on the grass, trying to get attention. In this photo, he is just wandering around by himself, holding an elephant whistle to his mouth. It was a strange moment. The man on the right was another protestor, and he was walking around with this sign, in solidarity with Muslims, protesting Trump. I made this photo to show that protestors come in many different forms.”


Sarah_Palmer02 Cleveland, Ohio.

“The man on the right is pastor Darrell Scott, a Trump supporter who was speaking at the convention. It blows my mind to think any person of colour would support Trump, so I created a juxtaposition with the Trump mask on the left with all the symbols of hate drawn onto it.”


Sarah_Palmer08 Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

“I went up and down the line of people waiting to get in to the rally, and I met Nancy Willis. I think she’s a dentist, and she’s been a Republican almost her whole life. She didn’t know who to vote for. She was reading up on all the candidates and, after the rally, she was 100 per cent Trump. He said he was going to change the way the government was run. That’s what she was really frustrated with: she wanted taxes to come down, and she wanted business back in America.”


Sarah_Palmer09 Cleveland, Ohio.

“There were a lot of Christian groups at the RNC. A lot of them didn’t even have Trump signs. I think they were there because they knew they’d have a good platform for their message. This woman was standing alone for a few minutes. Her eyes were closed and she was singing a song or a hymn. It was like she was unaware of everything else going on around her. Someone else from her group came and broke her moment, and she just up and left.”


Sarah_Palmer11 Cleveland, Ohio.

“At one point, a lot of police came into the public square outside the convention. This guy quietly walked up and stood in front of them. It was such a strong statement that he didn’t even need to say anything. He just stared right into my camera. That was really powerful. In the background, you can see one of the police officers is yawning.”


Sarah_Palmer12 Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

“A lot of young Americans really look up to, listen to and learn from Trump. This kid was waiting in a line, in such a little-boy stance. I asked his parents if I could photograph him. I found it really surprising how many people brought their children to these events. I heard a woman at a rally say to her child that she brought him there to show them what real morals and values are. I get that Republican parents wanting their kids to be Republican, but what really jarred me was the children in T-shirts that said, ‘Hillary sucks but not like Monica.'”


Sarah_Palmer06 Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

“It didn’t feel like I was at a political rally. It felt more like a show was about to start, and everyone was getting ready for it with their fries and soda. That, for me, was very surreal. At Trump rallies, he comes out to that Jock Jams song. The one that starts, ‘Y’all ready for this?’ Yeah, it’s gross.”


Sarah_Palmer01 Cleveland, Ohio.

“This photo is from the last day of the RNC. Trump supporters are extremely sexist and offensive when talking about Hillary. The pins and signs with hateful messages, all of the ‘crooked Hillary’ merch—everywhere I turned, there was something more ridiculous than the last. When I saw this guy sleeping in a chair on the busiest street of the convention, it was kind of perfect. He must have been over it, so he gave up and decided to have a nap. It was how I was feeling, too. I was just like, ‘I want to go home. I want to be in Canada.’”


Sarah_Palmer03 Cleveland, Ohio.

“On the last night of the RNC, people gathered in an alley to watch Trump’s address on the big screen. Once he started talking, protestors started popping up in the crowd, silently holding up signs. People just tried to ignore them.”


Sarah_Palmer10 Cleveland, Ohio.

“I wanted to find some Hillary and Bernie supporters, too. I saw this priest speaking to a man who was pro-Hillary who had really old buttons of hers. And this woman seemed like she was straight out of the flower power movement. It’s a freeing photo—she was having so much fun dancing and being at the convention.”