Saturday 16 December 2017

Irish photographer captures people's reactions to Donald Trump's Hollywood Boulevard star

While working in LA earlier this year, Irish photographer Kenneth O'Halloran noticed how strongly people were reacting to Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump's star on Hollywood Boulevard. He then embarked on a new project capturing this visceral reflection of the public discourse surrounding the tycoon

Reaction to Trump's star. Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran
Reaction to Trump's star. Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran
Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran
Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran
Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran
Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran
Keith O'Halloran photography
Kenneth O'Halloran photographer
Kenneth O'Halloran photographer

I spent six months earlier this year in Hollywood working with a Los Angeles-based celebrity photographer. During my earlier career as a staff photographer with this newspaper, I had the opportunity to photograph many famous actors, writers, politicians and entertainers - usually from afar. Working in LA allowed me the opportunity to come into closer contact with these people and interact with them directly.

On one such occasion I acted as body double for actor Michael Keaton, who refused to pose for a photograph on the roof of a building in downtown LA. The Birdman had just been released in cinemas and the idea was to recreate the final scene in the movie where Riggins (Keaton) climbs on to the window ledge and disappears. I changed into the clothes he was wearing, strapped on a harness and stepped out on to the ledge.

In the following months I worked with Seth Rogan, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt and Kevin Hart, to name a few, and this gave me a better understanding of how the industry worked.

I became interested in the difference between the way people appear versus the how they are - myth versus reality. Nowhere is this illusion more apparent than on Hollywood Boulevard. When you think of it, you think of glitz and glamour, movie premières and stylish people. Sadly, the opposite is the case. The tourist fantasies of Hollywood and Vine turn out to be nightclubs and souvenir shops; the concrete in front of the Chinese Theatre memorialises names you never heard of.

Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran
Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran

In 1958, the Hollywood Walk of Fame was created as a tribute to artists working in the entertainment industry. It comprises more than 2,500 five-pointed ­terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks. The stars are permanent public ­monuments to achievement in the entertainment industry and bear the names of actors, musicians, directors, producers, musical and theatrical groups, fictional characters and others.

It was on a morning walk on the boulevard that I first witnessed a scene that would become very familiar to me over the next few weeks. I noticed a group of people gathered around one of the stars and, in the centre, a young girl was jumping up and down on the pavement. It turned out that she was expressing her anger at Donald Trump's star.

Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran
Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran

Trump received the 2,327th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007 for his role as ­producer in NBC's The Apprentice.

I decided to come back the ­following day with my camera and record the reactions of the public to the Republican presidential nominee. Each day people would stop by simply to "give the finger" to the star.

Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran
Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran

A number encouraged their young children to do so while others pretended to defecate or spit over it. Trump's star has also been repeatedly vandalised. From time to time it was defaced with ink, shaving cream, and tomato ketchup.

Following Trump's remarks about illegal immigrants in the United States, there was a small but vocal outcry to remove his star.

Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran
Photo: Kenneth O'Halloran

More than 40,000 people signed a petition demanding its removal. Echoing Trump's controversial pledge to build a wall between the US and Mexico, earlier this summer a six-feet tall grey concrete wall appeared around the star, complete with a "Keep Out" sign and topped with razor wire.

The dynamic around the Trump star had become more than just ad-hoc street ­protest - it had become a visceral reflection of how this divisive ­presidential campaign has altered the nature of public discourse in America.

Keith O'Halloran photography
Keith O'Halloran photography

Bing, Bing, Bong, Bong, Bing, Bing, Bing by ­Kenneth O'Halloran is available at www.kennethohalloran.com priced at €38

'Their initial reaction was surprise... surprise often turned to anger'

Most people's initial reaction to the Trump star was one of surprise - they simply couldn't understand why he was honoured on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Surprise often turned to anger.

Kenneth O'Halloran photographer
Kenneth O'Halloran photographer

The more photographs I took, the more it became apparent that everyday people's reactions to the Trump star were akin to them having a one-to-one with the man himself.

It stuck me that without ever being able to meet or confront Trump, this was one place in the world where they might - and they could express their opinions of him.

They wouldn't need to go to a rally, get on TV or use social media, but yet in strange way, they could actually feel like they were connecting directly with him and letting him know in person how they felt. And they could actually do it in one of Hollywood's most visited locations.

All I had to do was ensure I was there without allowing the creators to feel my presence.

http://www.kennethohalloran.com/books/trump

Indo Review

Promoted Links

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in Life