Billy Briggs almost missed the shot.
Briggs, a veteran music photographer (often for City Pages, and happiest at Paisley Park) was trying to vote early on Monday at his most convenient location, in south Minneapolis.
One look at a line of “hundreds” of people waiting to vote made Briggs take a chance on a downtown Minneapolis voting venue. Briggs arrived to see a line down the block, but not quite around it, and decided this was the worth the wait.
He got in the queue and struck up a conversation with the woman in front of him. After finally arriving inside and casting their votes, they came across a section of the polling place reserved for “I Voted” portraits. The two women in front of them caught Briggs’ eye instantly.
“I was just kind of standing there, dumbfounded, watching,” Briggs says. “I felt compelled.” Briggs says the women he photographed were “fumbling and kind of giggling” at the attempt of photographing each other.
He and his new ballot-line friend volunteered to help: They wound up photographing the Muslim women, and the women returned the favor. “All I could say is, they seemed incredibly happy,” Briggs says. “The lady next to me, they both high-fived her.”
The moment Briggs captured was especially poignant, coming just a day after Donald Trump visited the Twin Cities area for a speech at the airport. Trump spoke about the state’s Somali and refugee population like a national security threat. Not people. Not American citizens who might be voting the next day.
“It made me feel proud to do what I was doing, that this is the right thing,” Briggs says. “I had a lot of feelings going on to be honest… about the freedom, the power, the fact they’re women -- so many things, my mind explodes with all the things it means.”
Briggs came out as gay to family members a year and a half ago. A lot of his family are conservative, and might wind up voting with Trump. He felt a little kinship to his fellow voters in niqabs.
“We’re minorities,” Briggs says. “That’s the subliminal part, probably, of why I did what I did taking the picture. Here’s someone I can relate to.”
Briggs sent the photo to a friend, who instantly posted it online, to the infamously "secret" but enormous Hillary Clinton supporter Facebook group, "Pantsuit Nation." Within an hour, the photographer says, it had 3,000 "likes."
Briggs, who's lived in Minneapolis for 18 years now, votes in every major election, but this year felt different. Briggs hasn’t slept well lately, and was antsy to get his vote in early. This one was essential.
“I’m stressed out way more. It’s polarizing, it’s shocking.” About his photo subjects, Briggs said: “There’s bravery involved. They’re exercising their right to vote. To change things.”