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Lowering the Lens

Montanans watch Obama's acceptance speech on Nov. 4, 2009. After photographer David Erickson shot this image, he put down his camera and joined the celebration.

By Carmen Daye Irish

On assignment for the Whitefish Pilot, David Erickson spent election night photographing the tears and joy released by Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.

Before the lens of the 28-year-old, television viewers at the Loft in this small resort town in Montana went from giddy to nervous within a matter of minutes.

People sang along with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A”, as they laughed, cried, cheered and hugged complete strangers.


Erickson lowered his camera, to absorb the atmosphere around him.

“I was there to document the evening and people’s reactions,” he said, looking back a year later. “But I was there to be part of history, too.”

A University of Montana graduate, Erickson describes himself as an independent-minded Democrat, with the environment his main political concern.

He was born and raised in Wyoming, and his parents both came from deeply conservative homes.

He hunts, but that doesn’t mean he’s a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association.

“Some of my best buddies are Republicans,” he said. “We just avoid talking about guns.”

Disagreeing on religion

Religion is another subject on which Erickson’s values don’t jibe with Republican ideas.

His family background is Presbyterian, but he recalls only attending church a few times as a child. He views religion as “a bunch of made-up stories” and doesn’t want to take part in organized rites.
The expressions of pride and patriotism Erickson experienced in Whitefish left him with a sense of unity.

He said he considers the 2008 presidential vote “probably the most important election of my lifetime.”

“For anyone who doesn’t think this is the land of opportunity,” he said, reciting the president-elect’s speech, “we have proved them wrong.”

Erickson said he still believes in “yes, we can”, one year after the election. He said he is thinking long-term and never expected Obama to fix the country’s problems within 12 months.

His dream is to witness and share historical moments as a documentary filmmaker.

“Wherever the story is, that is where I am going to be, with a camera in hand.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Carla Irish permalink
    November 24, 2009 1:42 pm

    I agree! I still believe “we can”. Great article Carmen!

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