Michael Mergen, "Precinct 10, Saugus, Massachusetts", from the series "Vote", 2009, archival pigment print, 16 x 36 1/2"

Michael Mergen, “Precinct 10, Saugus, Massachusetts”, from the series “Vote”, 2009, archival pigment print, 16 x 36 1/2″

Michael Mergen

“Vote”, an ongoing long-term project, is exploring a foundation of our American political system. Many of us perceive voting on Election Day as our civic duty, an honorable act at the heart of American politics and identity. We conjure up images of grand civic buildings: city halls, firehouses, and schools. In reality, sometimes the locations where votes are cast are anything but noble. These are spaces of solemn importance to American ideals, yet they don’t appear grand in my photographs. The spaces speak to how democracy actually operate and question notions about the sanctity of these fundamental democratic processes.

The photographs in “Vote” explore the kaleidoscopic quirkiness of voting in the United States, the confluence of popular culture and our political process, the odd juxtaposition of this important yet mundane act, and the unexpected, and sometimes strange, places where voting occurs. There is an incongruity within these photographs, the functionality of the spaces are at odds with the functionality and symbolic significance of the voting booth. In this overlap of politics and capitalism, which is more important? Which takes precedence? Do we serve as citizen or consumer?

In 2000, Michael Mergen (Providence, RI) completed his BFA at Rochester Institute of Technology with a focus on Visual Journalism. In 2010, he participated in the Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning Certificate program at Brown University and later completed his MFA in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has exhibited at the Jasper Arts Center (Jasper, IN) and also at the Art Institute International (Minneapolis, MN). His work appeared in issue #94 of the Center for Photography at Woodstock’s publication, PQ.