5 Frames… Of pre-US election day 2020 on ILFORD FP4 PLUS (Nikon FE / 35mm Format) – by Todd Shorack

When I develop a roll of film, I always look forward to seeing the faces of people I have just met on the street, but masks and street portraiture do not mix well. My self-assignments have been stymied. Still, after ordering a new developer – Photographer’s Formulary FA-1027 – I needed to kick myself out of the house and shoot a roll of film for testing. I strapped on my Nikon FE, drove to Temecula’s Old Town and walked around a bit. I found a nice family, all masked up. Not much going on there.

But on the way there, I had seen lines of people outside the local library. How about masks and ballots in the same frame? How often does that happen? It was Nov. 2, 2020, the day before the U.S. election. So, I gave myself an assignment to document this historic event.

Nikon FE and ILFORD FP4 PLUS, Todd Shorack

I found two lines into the library. I had mailed my ballot weeks earlier, but most of these people were personally delivering their ballots to the poll to ensure that they’d be counted, especially since the sitting President and his new Postmaster General seemed intent on slowing down the return of ballots. In a second line, people were empty-handed, going in to vote a day early.

The muscular young man in the flag mask had the only “guns” I saw at the poll: large biceps. I noticed later that the woman behind him is maskless. This shows the politicization of masks here in the dis-United States: Democrats generally follow public health guidelines; Republicans, not as much, due to the head of their party.

Wearing a mask makes people somber. It’s harder to communicate without facial expressions. In a line of masked people, one feels very anonymous and small talk doesn’t flow easily. I approached people and told them I was documenting this historic election of masks and ballots. I asked their permission to make their portraits. No one turned me down.

I noticed the “No U turn” sign behind an African-American couple, so I centered it because the famous Civil Rights freedom song, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round” came to mind. This photo became more timely after the President blamed Black-majority cities, without evidence, for stealing the election.

I like the diversity of people in the final frame (with the Asian couple up front(. The Native American man in the back is wearing a shirt that says: “Homeland Security, Fighting Terrorism Since 1492.” Temecula was the site of a massacre of Native Americans in 1846. The man chose to wear this shirt to remind the rest of us of his story.

I was very pleased with the FA-1027 and election developments.

~ Todd

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About the author

Todd Shorack

I used a Canon F-1 in the 70’s as a teenager. I picked up film photography again in 2017, because it makes me feel young again. I'm still awed by the magic of light/film/chemistry. I live in Temecula, California, a small city of 110,000 between Los Angeles...


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  1. Thanks, Todd. Great idea for putting together a submission. Like Mark from Oz I almost missed the subtleties – until I hit the button to enlarge the prints on my screen. Did you have a chance to talk for a few minutes with the man wearing the “terrorism since 1492” tee shirt?

  2. Thanks Todd: great photos and great restraint in your detailed narrative – I would have missed all those subtleties from down here in Oz.