Zine Supreme #11: Molly Adams
Welcome back to Zine Supreme, an ongoing series in which I talk to folks making magic happen via tiny printed things! This week I talked to Molly Adams, an LA-based photographer who just released a savage zine about Donald Trump's (very small and underwhelming) inauguration crowds. You can snag "No One Came to Donald's Party" and other stuff supporting good causes in her store.
What prompted you to make this booklet? What is your intention as a creator?
I walked down to the inauguration expecting to photograph the people waiting in line but there were no lines so I walked right in. Then I started making jokes about doing something with all these photos of an empty inauguration. When Sean Spicer stepped up to the White House podium and straight up lied about the size of Trump's inauguration crowd, I decided I was going to make something to blatantly disprove the administration's "alternative facts"—and hurt Donald's pride in the process.
Photos are so important right now as we enter a time where people can say whatever they want and get away with it. I had photos that disproved the Trump administration, and I wanted to use them to make Donald sad.
In what other ways do you hope to use your work to resist?
I think imagery is informative, but also inspiring. I try to photograph as many rallies and marches as possible to inspire people to get out there and spotlight the work people are doing in the streets. I try to get to as many places as possible and spread activist work into the world to help broaden people's perspectives.
I've just started actually selling physical items to monetize these images—which would otherwise just be sitting, for the most part, on a hard drive—and put the money I make toward good causes. I've also encouraged people to use my images to raise awareness about what's happening out there, which started when I was on the ground at the Standing Rock protests.
Do you feel creative types have an obligation to do work that reflects what's going on in the realm of politics and activism right now?
I don't think creative types have any more of an obligation than everyone right now. We all need to step up. I'm not saying everyone needs to take the streets, but everyone can do something within their current lives to make a huge difference.
If you work in an office, talk to your company about brining in groups and speakers to broaden the perspective of your coworkers. If your work environment isn't supportive, see what community organizers are doing and get involved. Not everyone has the privilege of making sure their workspace is woke, and that's okay—as long as we're educating ourselves.
But whether we're professionally creative or we do creative work in our free time, art is a reaction to our worlds both emotionally and literally. Even if we ignore the current state of affairs, we're making a statement. Whether we're making political pieces, selling work as fundraising, or simply making people smile, we're contributing to the movement.
I got a lot of backlash for photographing at the inauguration from the left. Folks were saying: "I can't believe you added to his numbers," "why are you acknowledging him," "ignore him"—and I think that's totally the wrong attitude and honestly part of what got us here. When we ignore the other side, we exist in an echo chamber where making progress is impossible. That being said, I did walk out during the oath as a tiny act of protest. And I made a book about it.
How have your identities impacted your work thus far, and how are they impacting it in this new political climate?
I'm a cis white lesbian living in Los Angeles, so while I'm not as safe as a cis white man, I'm pretty far up the ladder in terms of immediate risk. This allows me to photograph things that would be more dangerous for, say, a person of color. I learned how to stand up through fighting for LGBTQ rights, and immediately learned that it is a micro-fight in a larger war. If we aren't fighting for every single person and to break down all kinds of institutionalized hatred, then we aren't really fighting at all.
I just put out a postcard pack of protest photos and am donating the profits to the Lakota People's Law Project, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
I'll stay in the streets until everyone is safe—and document the journey for the rest of my life.
Carmen Rios is the Managing Editor at Argot Magazine, Digital Editor at Ms., Feminism Editor at Autostraddle, and a Contributor at Everyday Feminism. Her words have been published by BuzzFeed, BITCH, ElixHER, MEL, and Feministing, among others, and she was once a blogger and activist with the SPARK Movement, a writer at Mic, and Managing Editor of THE LINE Campaign blog. Carmen's successful work for over eight years in digital feminism—as a writer, social media maven, and activist leader—has earned her the titles of “digital native,” “intimidating to some,” and “vapid and uninteresting.” She's too honest on Twitter, too vague on Tumblr, and consistently uses the same filter on Instagram. You can also find her at carmenfuckingrios.com.