David Butow has been a professional photojournalist for three decades. His pictures have appeared in many publications around the world including National Geographic, TIME and Paris Match. His past work includes the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2019 democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. He has worked in dozens of countries and received awards from World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, Communications Arts and others.
Davis Butow, Brink, the book
Why make a book of photographs from events that overwhelmed many of us in the last four years? We lived through history minute by minute, so much so that the gravitas of what transpired is apparent only when you step back and see how the whole saga unfolded. As revisionists seek to trivialize or downplay these events, it's critical to maintain a record of just how close the presidency of Donald Trump brought U.S. democracy to the brink of disfunction. While some of the photographs in BRINK were taken on assignment, or published right away in places like The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, TIME and Paris Match, I was most interested in making pictures that would be different from daily news coverage and that would be particularly compelling to viewers decades from now.
BRINK begins with photographs from the battleground states in the U.S. Midwest, a combination of rural areas and Rust Belt towns where many voters were drawn to Trump's nativist and anti-establishment message. When the master-brander and TV personality shockingly became president in 2017, I was compelled to move from California to Washington, D.C. to see the events up close. Despite my decades of work as a professional photojournalist covering the results of public policy, I had never photographed in the Capitol or the White House. I was curious what happened out of the frame of TV cameras and I wanted to shoot a little looser than typical news photographs and bring in some of the ambience and feel for what it was like to be in the halls of power. After photographing the insurrection on January 6, 2021 I felt there was no choice but to compile these photographs in a permanent and artistic way. Most of you experienced these events on your television and computer screen. Those images are pixelated, and even if they're stills they seem fleeting. In a book, however, the pictures take on an added weight and permanence. The publication and campaign are being organized by myself and Rome-based Punctum Press, which prints in Italy, the finest place for photographic reproduction. Emmy-nominated journalist and producer Mark McKinnon of Showtime's "The Circus," who has also worked as an advisor and reform advocate across the political spectrum, has graciously written the Forward. Political scientist Cecilia Emma Sottilotta from The American University of Rome, a specialist in comparative democracy, writes the Epilogue, providing an outsider's, intellectual perspective.
The book's structure and sequencing has been a collaboration with two of the best photo editors I've worked with over the years, Jenn Poggi and Olivier Picard. It presents the narrative in three chapters, or "Acts," from Trump's election to the inauguration of Joe Biden.
Photographs from BRINK will be projected at Visa Pour l'Image, the international festival of photojournalism on in Perpignan, France on September 1, 2021 and a major exhibit is planned at the Rochester Institute of Technology's downtown space in February 2022.
David Butow, Brink