Documenting Early Voters, Harlem NYC

As hard as it is to admit it, I have recently found myself struggling creatively and emotionally. If you’ve ever been there, you know how much it sucks. And while I haven’t stop creating or photographing, the works that I do create don’t seem fill that void inside. They don’t speak back to me. They just stare back as if waiting for me to give them meaning, a name, but I can’t find any. Until today. I remembered something my dance teacher use to say, “Energy and creativity are the opposite of money, you can’t keep them to yourself and expect to get more, you have to share them. And the the more you share them, the more you will get back in return.”

And that’s exactly how I got inspired to create this short series. As I was coming back home from a photography session I frankly forced myself to do, I came across the long, long, long lines of people waiting to cast their votes early in the streets of Harlem, my neighborhood. The lines would go around the blocks and blocks at every single polling site. But I couldn’t find one angry face in crowd. I only saw faces filled with hope and determination. People of all ages and backgrounds standing strong. New Yorkers and people across the country are taking a stand, making sure their voices are heard. And I realized, Voting is the utmost proof of our solidarity. Even if we have opposing ideas, we show up, for each other. Hopefully, because we believe in our hearts to have the best interest for our communities. And this year, more than ever before, we are showing up in spite of a very real risk to out health.

It is in that same spirit of solidarity why I chose to photograph this series using back and white film. As a way to somehow erase any possible bias and focus exclusively on the individuals. No reds, no blues, just us. Celebrating and honoring our voices and our selflessness. After spending so many months feeling the burden of solitude, today as I met and photographed this small group of New Yorkers, I felt, for a brief moment that I wasn’t so alone anymore, because New York is showing. Together.

So thank you once again New York City. Thank you Harlem for rising up. For lifting me up. For lifting each other up. Thank you for the hope that we will get through this together. As we have done every single time.

All images and text ©2020 Omar Z Robles (unless otherwise stated). All Rights Reserved. Do not copy or use without written consent from Omar Z Robles.

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