Bernice, Louisiana has a population of less than 2 000. Paul Shambroom’s photograph shows its Town Council meeting of 14 May 2002: it’s one of a series taken of town meetings, part of a broader investigation of the way power works in turn-of-the century America.
The town council is the most local and immediate tier of the political system. As if to reflect this, Shambroom’s photographs are taken front on to his subjects, at eye-level. Their gaze is direct, sustained, penetrating; they seem to ‘see through’ what they witness.
Shambroom himself comments on the theatrical aspects of the meetings he observed: the recurrent presence of a cast, a set, an audience and a programme or agenda. His images have the wide-angled stillness of historical painting and religious iconography; they look like so many evocations of The Last Supper.
Each image is accompanied by a brief caption, and by the recorded minutes of the relevant meeting. Together, as Shambroom says, they report ‘the often imperfect and sometimes beautiful way in which we practice this form of government’.