New York-based photographer Olivia Locher became interested in politics early in life. Making her first protest statement at 14 (she flipped off Dick Cheney), 25-year-old Locher explores social issues and failings through her colorful imagery. Last year, her series on the inane and bizarre laws that still exist in America spawned several viral images, including that ice cream shot that's probably still your phone background.
Since Donald Trump's win in last month's election, Locher and her brother Brandon have again gleaned inspiration from the political toils around them, creating a collection of stylish and poignant protests signs opposing the President-elect. For each of the 45 days before he takes office in January, the siblings are debuting a design on Instagram. Inspired by the individual signs they've seen in their home city, each design is available in a public Dropbox folder for anyone who would like to use it in their own protest efforts. With this project in personal and public activism, the young creatives are exploring not only their own convictions, but also where their work lives within the rich history of protest art. The project also provides a much-needed sense of agency and control during an unsettling point in history. We spoke with Locher to find our more about it.
Why did you want to do this series?
I made my first sign, "Pro America Anti Trump," for the NYC protests that assembled directly following the election of Donald Trump. Observing and participating in these marches opened my eyes to the power protest signs can hold. The sign itself is a simple gesture, but the moment someone sees it, your message can be very clearly understood. My brother, Brandon, and I are creating 45 signs; then I photograph each of them in my studio so they can be shared digitally. Each day we are uploading new ones to Dropbox and the full collection will be live before January 20. We hope likeminded people will find a message they resonate with, then download and share a sign. We are also sending all 45 signs to the inauguration with a busload of our friends.
How has it been witnessing all the protests in New York? Do you feel it's given you a different insight into your city, or the climate of the country?
What I found the most comforting about participating in the protests was having so many shoulders to lean on. A lot of people in NYC, including myself, were extremely saddened by the results.
That's a theme in a lot of protest art, the comfort of community. You've been interested in politics since you were a kid. Tell us about that.
I never was conscious that I was, but now that I think of it, I am. My work has always been politically-driven because it's an extension of my own life. Brandon is six years older than me, so as a child, he introduced me to politics. I was 14 when I attended my first protest. I gave Dick Cheney's motorcade the middle finger when he visited my hometown and got on the national news!
Beyond helping people out with some great signs, what do you hope the project achieves?
I'm just excited that they will make an appearance at the inauguration; I am unable to attend so this will be my chance to be there in spirit! It's also an opportunity to express my voice and my concerns. I was raised in a part of Pennsylvania that Trump won in a landslide, a county which normally votes Democratic. Most of all, I'm extremely sad because Hillary Clinton was overqualified to be our 45th president — so much so that she received 2.8 million more votes than Mr. Trump. The job of the protesters has never been more crucial; [we must] assure that the Electoral College dies, allowing every vote to matter in future elections. The country is also extremely divided, and Trump's administration needs to hear all sides and work to unite the people. It is already proving to do the opposite.
You mentioned before how heartbreaking this election has been for you and so many others. Has this project been cathartic?
It has been, but in all honestly it's been more of a rat race. I often fill my plate with over-ambitious projects. I didn't realize how much work went into making 45 (hopefully artful) protest signs. My brother and I are splitting the work but it's become a full time job for the two of us to meet our deadline. We are determined to finish, and that has been cathartic.
Download all the Locher siblings's signs here. New designs are added daily.
Text Wendy Syfret
Images Olivia and Brandon Locher