The Photographer Who Dropped Everything to Track Trump
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because there’s a reason some people gladly bet the farm on Trump.
As a volunteer, Ray Reynolds photographed some of the most intimate moments from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign — including candid shots of Melania, Ivanka and Mike Pence too. Today, after attending some 50 Trump events across what he says was about 30,000 miles, on his own dime, Reynolds is back in Martinsville, Virginia, his hometown of about 13,000 people. His studio is a shrine, with dozens of press passes, newspapers and photographs encased in glass. “I’ve been preaching: This is history,” the 56-year-old says. “I wanted to document it so we could show all Donald Trump had to go through.”
While the Trump administration has been a source of consternation for the president’s critics and some of those targeted by his protectionist policies, others, like Reynolds, see proof of sorely needed change. His southwestern Virginia region long thrived on manufacturing chew, furniture and textiles. But after the rise of new technology and competition from developing nations that coalesced with the passage of NAFTA in the ’90s, Martinsville plunged into what would become more than a decade of job losses, leading Virginia in unemployment — at one point, almost a quarter of its workforce was jobless. In November, Martinsville voted for Hillary Clinton by a 23-point margin, though its county, Henry, chose Trump over Clinton — 63 percent to 34 percent. “How this area could still vote Democrat, or for anyone who has agreed to these policies, is beyond me,” Reynolds says.
For Reynolds, who says he was nonpartisan before, this election became more personal than in the past. His 73-year-old mother died two years ago, in part, he says, because her medication was no longer covered due to the Affordable Care Act. Six months later, his sister passed away soon after being put on a waiting list for a respiratory test — which doctors told her could take months because it was deemed a “non-emergency procedure,” Reynolds says. Today, he’s uninsured, having watched his monthly premiums skyrocket, he says, from about $200 per month five years ago to roughly $900 if he had coverage today. “Our insurance was holding us hostage and I wanted to do something about it,” Reynolds says.
And so he began by working an event in Greenville, South Carolina, in August 2015, back when Trump led by double digits in most Republican primary polls yet pundits believed the billionaire’s blustery comments would eventually disqualify or at least discredit him. Since then, Reynolds’ photography and construction businesses have taken a hit, which he attributes to liberal backlash against his unabashed Trumpism. “It’s almost like I’m toxic,” says the man whose bright-yellow camera gear became famous at Trump rallies and who now worries about paying his next mortgage and car payments. Still, he’s upbeat after the first couple of weeks of Trump’s presidency. “If I was any happier, my heart couldn’t take it,” Reynolds says.
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