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Rick Santorum

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Justin Maxon, who spent the days leading up to Super Tuesday photographing Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum for TIME, started the project new to the political photography scene—but it didn’t take him long to figure out how the campaign events in Ohio would go.

“Every single rally looks the same and sounds the same,” he says. At this point, the candidate’s appearances are fully stage-managed affairs with low levels of access for photographers.

Maxon had noticed that there was a high level of excitement about Santorum, and he wanted to get to the bottom of it, but found it hard to do at official campaign events. “There’s just so much that goes into the image of the candidate,” says Maxon, “that it’s hard to really know what’s orchestrated and what’s real.”

One technique Maxon used to get around the artifice was to look for people and objects that could serve as symbols of the larger issues. He was fascinated by the grassroots enthusiasm for Santorum’s candidacy and the values that underlie that support, so he tried to give visual expression to those ideas.

“There was a family I photographed with four children, and the mother had this 3-week-old baby that she was carrying around,” he recalls of one such example. “In addition to this baby, she had this American flag she was carrying with her, as well. To me, seeing these large families and their patriotism was an insight into the values of the people who support this candidate.”

Another way Maxon explored the campaign was to leave the political events behind. At one rally, the photographer met Pastor Lonnie Vestal, who is featured in the photo gallery above. Not normally a political man, Vestal had become excited about Santorum’s message. He invited Maxon to attend Sunday services at his church, the Way of the Cross Pentecostal Church in Mason, Ohio, and then to go canvassing after the prayers, walking from home to home and trying to engage in political dialogues with residents.

The pastor was not the only such person he met. “I’ve been talking to people and trying to grasp why people are really interested in Santorum.” With his photographs from Ohio, Maxon says he wants viewers to get an impression of not just the reasons that people gave for their enthusiasm about the candidate—mostly “issues involving the home,” he says—but also his own perceptions of how the Santorum campaign is striving to encourage those feelings.

“Part of telling the story is hearing people’s stories,” he says. “I’ve been trying to weave together what people are saying and the things that I’m actually seeing.”

Justin Maxon is a California-based photographer and a recent recipient of a Magnum Emergency Fund Grant. See more of his work here, or on LightBox.

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In the days leading up to yesterday’s Super Tuesday primary contests, Republican candidate Mitt Romney set his sights on Ohio, a swing state that has played a crucial role in recent presidential elections. Photographer Lauren Fleishman, who was photographing the candidate for TIME, did the same.

“I have been here before. It’s what I remember,” she says of the state, where she previously spent time working on an extensive personal project about the Amish. “The landscape still looks the same.” And, although the photographer was focused on a different kind of Ohioan this time around, she found that, while Romney was the star of the scene, the people of Ohio were still the highlight of the trip.

Photo opportunities with Romney were highly controlled—something that Justin Maxon, who was also photographing Super Tuesday for TIME, found to be equally true for Rick Santorum’s campaign. It was especially so after when Fleishman left her car to join the official campaign bus. The increase in access, the backstage passes, was paid for in limitations on where and when the photographer could stand and shoot. Taking those photographs was an artistic and technical challenge—how to make a good picture when you can’t get close enough?—but Fleishman found that the people who turned up to see the candidate were the real source of interest.

For example, at a factory in Canton, Ohio, on Monday, Fleishman turned her camera to the workers. “They were in their work outfits, which is just jumpers and construction hats, because they went to work on a Monday and a lot of them, I was told, didn’t even know that there was going to be something going on,” she says. “For me the most exciting thing is getting to see the people from each town come out, and to speak to them and to see their faces.”

From Dayton to Youngstown, each town had its own character—and each town had its own characters. Each campaign event presented the photographer with one group of people that made up one piece of Ohio. As the campaign bus traveled through the state, the photographer was able to put those pieces together, many portraits of people becoming a portrait of a state. And yesterday, anticipating leaving the state to join Romney as he waited for the day’s results in Boston, Fleishman hoped that her photographs from Ohio would show the state itself as a part of a larger puzzle.

“You get these little glimpses into different towns,” she says. “I want the photographs in some way to show a portrait of America through the candidate.”

Lauren Fleishman is an award-winning photographer based in New York City. See more of her work here and her last post on LightBox here

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Yesterday morning in Kentwood, Mich., photographers and TV reporters squeezed into a small diner to try to capture an appearance by Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Andrew Cutraro, the photographer sent to cover yesterday’s Michigan primary for TIME, wasn’t there.

He was outside, waiting in the Midwestern cold, attempting to predict the exact route Santorum would take from the diner to his car. The goal was to capture a unique image of the candidate, but there was no way to be sure whether Santorum would walk where Cutraro was set up.

“I spent over an hour waiting outside, staking out his limo, to make one picture,” Cutraro says. “It’s nerve-wracking. You’re putting all your chips into one situation, and it either comes together and makes an interesting, fresh image or you don’t have anything.”

That experience was emblematic of this stage of the presidential race, Cutraro says. For example, Tuesday was the very first day that Santorum had a Secret Service detail. Each of the remaining candidates has moved away from his grassroots origins, and gone are the days when a photographer could get an intimate, unplanned shot of someone who might one day be president. At the same time, the candidates are still getting used to the new situation and logistics may not be fully coordinated; the stage-managers are on board but their productions are still in rehearsal. “It’s this weird gestation in the campaign where they’re not organized enough that you can plan but also not loose enough that you can benefit from any serendipity,” says Cutraro.

The photographer says that dealing with the candidates during what he identifies as their “growing pains” requires balancing the burden of getting the shots he wants — using a lighting set-up, having the help of an assistant — against the ability to be nimble. “I’m still personally trying to figure out where that sweet spot is,” he says.

It also requires a lot of travel. And, as Cutraro points out, Michigan isn’t exactly a small state.

But all that time on the road was put to good use. Cutraro didn’t just shoot the candidates and their supporters; he captured the backdrop against which the political drama played out. Many of his photographs from Michigan have a “street-view” feel, evoking what it’s like to pass through a place and soak it in. The photographer tried to identify the special Midwesternness of the landscape, the qualities that make it immediately apparent that one is not in any other place in the world.

“A sense of place and a sense of time, I’ve always been interested in that,” the photographer says. “It should feel and look like Michigan this time of year and probably in this time in history, too.”

Cutraro says he wanted to avoid familiar images of a decaying Detroit, but instead to capture a sense of Michigan that is — at least outside the orchestrated campaign events — like the land he saw through his window. “The landscape,” he says, “looks like the sentiment up here.”

Andrew Cutraro is a photographer based in New York City. He is represented by Redux. See more of his work here.

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SUPPORTING SANTORUM SUPPORTING SANTORUM: Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum prayed with him during a campaign stop at the Bella Donna Chapel in McKinney, Texas, Wednesday. Mr. Santorum swept the Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri contests Tuesday. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

ILLUMINATING CHOICE ILLUMINATING CHOICE: A woman voted at a polling station during the state assembly election in Ayodhya, India, Wednesday. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

ON THE SIDELINES ON THE SIDELINES: Residents covered their noses as soldiers searched for missing people in La Libertad, Philippines, Wednesday. Officials conceded that there was little hope of finding survivors after a powerful earthquake Monday set off landslides. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

PICKET LINE PICKET LINE: Nokia Siemens Networks employees protested the planned closure of the Munich office Wednesday.  (Frank Leonhardt/European Pressphoto Agency)

GET AWAY GET AWAY: A soldier kicked a tear-gas canister during clashes with supporters of ousted President Mohamed Nasheed in Malé, Maldives, Wednesday. The nation’s first democratically elected president said he was forced to resign at gunpoint and he vowed to return to office. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

WEAVING A POLITICAL WEB WEAVING A POLITICAL WEB: An automatic loom produced tapestries bearing pictures of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at a weaving mill in Vyritsa, Russia, Wednesday. (Anatoly Maltsev/European Pressphoto Agency)

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Spanish photographer Ricardo Cases is known for his signature bright colors—colors that were on vivid display in his most recent book, Paloma Al Aire, which captures the traditions of pigeon racing. This week, TIME asked Cases to turn his eye to a different kind of sport: politics.

The photographer traveled to Florida to cover Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary, which Mitt Romney easily won. Although Cases had never photographed American politics before, he said he found the atmosphere one that was well suited for his photographic process.

“Florida has everything I need to work: color, color, color, good weather and all the consequences of these four factors in the development of the society,” he said in an email to TIME.

Cases was not very familiar with the topic he was sent to shoot, but he didn’t need to do much preparation to capture these vibrant images of candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the voters he hoped to persuade, as well as events for Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. In fact, Cases said he rarely does much preparation for a shoot, preferring to rely on randomness as a catalyst for his pictures. “What stimulates me is the freshness of the first encounter with a new place, with a new people,” he said. “I think that chance is a great tool for a photographer.”

And now that he’s experienced that moment with birds and politicians alike, what’s his take-away for the future?

“It’s easier to work with politicians,” he said, “because they can’t fly.”

Ricardo Cases is a Spanish photographer. See more of his work here.

Interview with Ricardo Cases translated by Javier Sirvent.

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GO TIME
GO TIME: Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum climbed into a truck after he greeted patrons at MaryAnn’s Diner in Derry, N.H., Monday. The Granite State holds the nation’s first primary Tuesday. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

PACKED STREETS
PACKED STREETS: Nigerians packed Ikorodu Road in Lagos, Nigeria, Monday. Tens of thousands of protesters participated in a nationwide strike over gas prices that shot up when the government ended a decades-old gas subsidy. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

PROTECTING TEBOW
PROTECTING TEBOW: The Denver Broncos’ Willis McGahee (23) threw a block on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Larry Foote (50) as Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) looked to pass the ball during a wild card playoff game in Denver Sunday. The Steelers lost 29-23 in overtime. (Jack Dempsey/Associated Press)

TOPSY-TURVY
TOPSY-TURVY: The Greek-owned cargo ship Rena, which has been grounded off the New Zealand coast since October, broke into two pieces after it was battered by strong waves in Tauranga, officials said Sunday. Oil has been seen leaking from the vessel. (Action Press/Zuma Press)

SCOUTS PRAY
SCOUTS PRAY: Boy Scouts Russ Pierce, left, and Paul Pierce prayed during the annual Religious Freedom Day event in Fredericksburg, Va., Sunday. (Suzanne Carr Rossi/The Free Lance-Star/Associated Press)

LEOPARD ATTACK
LEOPARD ATTACK: A leopard scalped a man, killed another man and injured three other people in Guwahati, India, Saturday. The animal was captured and will be released in the wild. Conservationists say deforestation is increasingly pushing leopards into populated areas. (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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Lars Tunbjörk is accustomed to seeking out the absurd. And on his first assignment covering U.S. politics, the Swedish photographer, best known for capturing the subtle humor in his native country’s suburban landscapes, didn’t need to look too hard. The frenzy of candidates, crowds and media that accompanied the Republican caucuses earlier this week in Iowa gave Tunbjörk absurdity by the ballotbox-full. This series of revealing and often humorous photos, commissioned to illustrate TIME‘s political coverage in the magazine and online, is a remarkable snapshot of American democracy in action. Tunbjörk often arrived early to watch campaign workers set up and stayed long after the the spectacle ended to capture them breaking down the stages. “The people of Iowa work hard during the process and take it very seriously,” the photographer says.

With a fresh eye, strong flash and unusual compositions, Tunbjörk captured the personality-driven candidacy of Rick Santorum as he prayed before a plate of nachos in Johnston, Iowa, and discovered Mitt Romney’s robotic rhetorical repetition on the trail in Clive and West Des Moines. Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann were also photographed, and Tunbjörk shows the full spectrum of the long days both the candidates and Iowans endure, waiting at events and standing out in the cold during the sometimes grueling caucus process. Under the Iowa big-top, the marvels never cease. “Sweden is such a quiet country,” Tunbjörk says. “And this process is such a circus.”

Lars Tunbjörk is a Stockholm-based photographer and represented by Agence Vu in Paris and by the Gun Gallery in Sweden and Paul Amador Gallery in New York. He is the author of Vinter (Steidl, 2007) and his next book, L.A. Office (MACK) will be out this spring.  

Adam Sorensen is an associate editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter at @adamsorensen.

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Tuesday’s Iowa caucus goes down in the history books as a photo finish for an epic race. Mitt Romney edged out victory over Rick Santorum by just eight votes, with Ron Paul finishing not far behind. Iowa City photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier, who has been covering the race in the Hawkeye State for TIME, offers an inside look at this the quintessential American saga from its early to final days, and in chronicling this path, he sheds light on a Republican spirit ready to take on Barack Obama.

Frazier’s lens captures the sentiments not just of the candidates but also of the voters, as well as the reporters who’ve covered them both. For Frazier, the Iowa path is well-worn. He traced the campaign trail for the magazine in 2008, and now, four years and a recession later, the state’s mood appears expectant and committed. The Tea Party vigor has muted, but the determination for change has not. It is apparent in the eyes of those he photographed, from Occupy Des Moines protesters to Faith and Freedom Coalition banqueters to veterans at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, all of whom were preparing to make 2012’s first great decision. And when you behold his images of empty audience chairs after campaign stops and candidate speeches, you can’t help but feel the present investment Iowans—and all the nation’s Republicans—feel in their political future.

“I followed Republican presidential hopefuls as they addressed voters in kitchens, cafes, and town halls—candidates opening themselves up to unexpected questions as they met face to face with factory workers, farmers and residents of a state that is questioned over its first in the nation status once every four years,” Frazier said. “Attack ads paid off, as did the traditional formula of visiting all 99 counties and doing the ‘work’ that wins Iowa.”

Several of Frazier’s photos have already become some of the election’s most memorable. He snapped Michele Bachmann moments after she declared her candidacy in June, and Newt Gingrich as he was getting his makeup done for a November interview—both of which were featured in the pages of TIME last year. Then there are his images of Rick Perry hunting pheasants with Rep. Steve King (R-IA) in October and Rick Santorum following suit two months later. Some things never change—you have to know the game to play the race.

Danny Wilcox Frazier is a photographer with Redux who is based in Iowa City.

Elizabeth Dias is a reporter in TIME’s Washington bureau. Find her on Twitter @elizabethjdias.

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