The results still hadn’t been called in the state of Georgia when Dave flew to Atlanta to cover the wake of the US election for a Channel 4 Dispatches on the Divided States of America. In the five days spent filming in and around Atlanta, he found the time to create a photo story that captures the essence of this diverse city – the birthplace of Martin Luther King – during a pivotal moment in American history.
‘Pack your bags, you’re off to America.’ The text came on Monday morning, the day before the US Presidential election. I arrived at Heathrow a few hours later, but it wasn’t until Wednesday night that I got a waiver from the US Embassy allowing me to travel on a media visa. I was on the first flight to Atlanta on Thursday morning, arriving in the afternoon US Eastern time, by which time, Joe Biden was emerging as the winner (give or take a recount in the State of Georgia). America was looking pretty volatile at the time, so Channel 4 provided me with a bullet-proof vest, respirator and helmet in case things turned ugly.
My brief was to capture the raw division in communities as part of a 30-minute Dispatches due to air on the Monday after my arrival. No pressure there then. I had just a few days to find and film stories. My stress levels went into the red but thanks to some brilliant local fixers, some willing participants and some very long hours, I finally got some great content – as well as reaching parts of the city that most visitors don’t see,
Filming took me to Dalton, a working town north of Atlanta; into a classic American diner where I got some local folk to talk about the election and the state of the country; and into the HQ of Republican Party Chairwoman, Diane Putman (pictured above – a proud ‘Trump Girl’ she had strong opinions and an office full of Trump paraphernalia which looked great on camera). Diane’s colleague Brian, a bearded Harley Davidson biker, spoke powerfully on camera about his opinions on Trump and Biden; and members of the Greater Atlantic Democratic Women invited me to a lawn party to celebrate Biden’s win – which was called during my trip.
I stayed in Hotel Clermont in midtown Atlanta, within easy reach of the trendy Edgewood district where I ended up in ‘Stoneys’ barbers (a heated debate on both sides of the political divide – and a haircut), the cool Church bar (its full name is Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium – pictured above), the Majestic Diner (enter a huge plate of pancakes with ham and eggs, sunny side up) and the Martin Luther King Historic Park (a place of pilgrimage for many Americans).
I’m pleased to say, I didn’t need the helmet or the bullet-proof vest.
Dispatches’ Divided State of America was shown on Channel 4 on 9 November 2020. Photographs by Dave Young: daveyoung.co.uk.