When Donald Trump walked on stage on the third night of the Republican National Convention, he approached his vice-presidential pick, Mike Pence, and leaned to kiss him on the cheek. “But their bodies didn’t quite line-up,” says Christopher Morris, the TIME contract photographer who captured what is now known as the “air kiss fail.” For Morris, “it’s just odd symbolism.”
For four days, Morris photographed the Republican National Convention, dissecting the strangeness of all the patriotic staging in his signature style at a defining time in American politics. “The first days felt like any other,” he says. “But last night, positioned just off stage under the podium, listening and watching to Ivanka [Trump] with her extreme beauty, describing her amazing life with her loving father, you could feel this was something different.”
For Morris, the scene wasn’t about Republicans, it wasn’t about Democrats. This was all Trump. “This is a family that’s poised to seize America. As I sat just off the stage listening to his voice, you knew this was unlike any other American political convention you experience in a lifetime. Truly, something extremely historic was taking place.”
Morris has been documenting politics since 1999 when he left conflict photography to cover John McCain’s presidential campaign and the ensuing White House race. The following year, he became TIME’s White House photographer and during his years in Washington, he produced two books – My America and Americans – that are widely credited with transforming the way politics was photographed, influencing generations of photographers while blurring the lines between straight photojournalism and art.
Morris pushed his photographic vision further into filmmaking over the years and in January shot a series of experimental short films called The Candidates for TIME.
Christopher Morris is an award winning TIME contract photographer since 1990 and is a founding member of the VII photo agency. He is the author of My America and his latest book Americans. you can follow him on Instagram.