“Surprise and anger and disbelief.” These are the reactions that Irish photographer Kenneth O’Halloran captured as people walked past the star bearing Donald J. Trump’s name on Hollywood Boulevard.
Introduced to the Walk of Fame in 2007, in honor of Trump’s rise as a television celebrity for The Apprentice and the Miss Universe contest, the engraved star is now taking on new meaning for thousands of tourists. While some show their appreciations for the Republican presidential candidate by posing next to the star, the majority of people had a different kind of reaction, says the photographer, who describes how “a constant flow of personal engagement with the star began to unfold with expressions of anger, vulgarity, angst, anxiety and sheer frustration.”
“The connections were as if they were speaking directly to him,” O’Halloran adds, “as if he were there in person.”
O’Halloran, whose own family emigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s and 1980s, was searching for a way to capture the mood of the 2016 presidential campaign and to comment on Trump’s impact across the U.S. and around the world. “[The pictures] reveal how this divisive Presidential campaign appears to have altered the nature of polite discourse in a prominent tourist attraction that is the embodiment of the American dream,” he says. “These iconic stars are a place of worship, a place to express your deep bonds and admirations for those bestowed with such an accolade. The connections run deep and I was fascinated to observe the way in which ordinary people might want to express their anti-Trump feelings so strongly and so openly.”
The images are collected in O’Halloran’s newest photobook called Bing Bing, Bong Bong, Bing Bing Bing, in reference to one of Trump’s speeches.
O’Halloran’s approach to this project runs against his usual quieter style. His previous work tends to be more architectural and posed. But, he says, this work reminded him of his beginnings as a newspaper photographer, when he covered civil unrest and conflict in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Kosovo. “These were exciting places to visit, particularly when the day-to-day newspaper routine could become so mundane,” he says. “On Hollywood Boulevard watching Donald Trump’s Hollywood star getting mixed reactions, I realized I was witnessing something historic, however small.”
Kenneth O’Halloran is an Irish photographer based in Dublin. His book, Bing Bing, Bong Bong, Bing Bing Bing, is available now.
Michelle Molloy, who edited this photo essay, is a senior international photo editor at TIME.
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