The Story Behind Shepard Fairey’s Inauguration Protest Posters

3 minute read

Donald Trump’s election was a surprise for many and a blow for some. But for photographer Aaron Huey, the outcome was enough to push him to express his dissatisfaction through art.

In November, he launched the “We The People” project through his Amplifier Foundation with the aim to give a face to groups who are frequently the target of hatred and racism. He reached out to the artist Shepard Fairey, who created the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster during the 2008 election, to work together with one clear goal: to bring together the voices of anyone visiting Washington D.C. for the inauguration to protest Trump’s election. The message, like with Obama’s Hope slogan, is simple: “We the people,” says Huey. And while it will continue to evolve in future events, for the inauguration, Huey, who worked with a group of journalists, editors and artists, settled on three simple ideas: “We are greater than fear. We defend dignity. We protect each other.”

These slogans are featured on signs that will be distributed to anyone attending the D.C. events. “What we wanted the public to know was that others believe the same things they do,” Huey tells TIME. “And that these beliefs are not defined by political party, but by a set of values that are unassailable.”

For this project, Huey stepped away from his role as a photographer. “We wanted to be sure that a project about standing up for the most vulnerable in America was not done by just Shepard and myself,” he says. “I had so much to do to organize the project that I knew I couldn’t be a photographer on the project.” In the span of 10 days, Huey reached out to his network of photo editors to guide him in finding photographers for the project. The images, taken by Delphine Diallo, Ridwan Adhami and Arlene Majorado, for instance, show a Latina woman and a young African-American boy posing confidentially. The posterized versions of the images by Fairey are meant to unite rather than cause divide .

“Powerful photos change the world,” Huey says. “But I also think that we are overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of them these days, I think we are becoming a bit numb. I think art can help wake people up. A powerful illustration, like these, has the ability to stop a person in the street.”

A Kickstarter campaign for “We the People” raised over a million dollars in a week, and given that success, Huey is optimistic that the project will expand beyond inauguration day. He’s already planning to take the work to the sides of buildings and bus stops.

Aaron Huey is a photographer and frequent collaborator for National Geographic. “We the People,” created through Huey’s The Amplifier Foundation, will have signs created for people attending Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 and at the Women’s March Jan 21. They can either print the art or go to a Washington D.C. location to pick it up.

Bianca Silva is a writer and contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter.

Shepard Fairey—Amplifier Foundation
Woman W Rose - Arlene Mejorado
Woman with RoseArlene Mejorado
Shepard Fairey—Amplifier Foundation
Muslim Woman - Ridwan Adhami
Muslim WomanRidwan Adhami

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