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Graduation season is well underway, with kindergartners, high schoolers, college seniors and graduate students alike donning caps and gowns to celebrate their achievement. With their diplomas, graduates also get words of wisdom from a commencement speakers and a good excuse to celebrate. -- Lloyd Young ( 31 photos total)
US Naval Academy graduates throw their hats at the conclusion of their commencement and commission ceremony, attended by President Barack Obama at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on May 24 in Annapolis, Md. (Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency)     

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“The campaign is in a lull. The wars overseas are winding down. Washington is paralyzed. I’ve loaded up my iPod with some new songs. There’s nothing to do but….hit the road!”

With that, veteran TIME political columnist Joe Klein began his three-week, eight-state road trip, which ended last Friday. Klein has made this sampling of the country’s political climate a yearly tradition. This time around, TIME sent three of the magazine’s contributors to accompany Klein for different legs of the journey. Here, LightBox presents a selection of their work as well as their thoughts from across America.


What was the single most memorable experience you had on the trip?

Andrew HinderakerIn Richmond, Virginia, at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in a Drug Rehabilitation Center, we met a woman who’d struggled with addiction since age nine. She was a convicted felon, and now, in her 40’s, was 21 months clean. She’d recently convinced a friend to allow her to farm a piece of land. For someone like her, whose addiction left her reliant on medical care most of her life, President Obama’s healthcare legislation meant for her a fresh start. With affordable healthcare, she could be a small business owner, a farmer, an active, contributing citizen; without it, she’s just a recovering addict. We learned her story because another man at the meeting expressed his disdain at the Healthcare Reform Act. We got to watch their argument, and this woman’s story change a man’s mind. It certainly proved Joe’s point about getting to know one another; perhaps the government should sponsor free coffee and organize meetings once a week with a group of local strangers.

What was the economic and political mood of the parts of the country you visited?

Katy Steinmetz: People seemed disappointed and exhausted by the political and economic state of things in America. Many were hopeful, but more were resigned—past anger and yearning for a little compromise.

What was the #1 problem facing the people you met?

Pete Pin: This was dependent on class. For a group of upper middle class voters in Charleston, West Virginia, they were most concerned with the visceral partisanship of the country and the future of the health care law. For rural voters in Jackson and Newcomerstown, Ohio, they were most concerned with jobs and social ills.

What was their #1 reason for hope?

Pete: Community at the local level. I learned that in spite of the partisanship and bickering in Washington, people genuinely believed that things can and will get better, not because of intervention by the federal government, but rather because of the community coming together at the local level.

Andrew Hinderaker for TIME

Leslie Marchut and Briggs Wesche eat breakfast with Joe Klein in Chapel Hill, N.C.

What is the national character? Are there uniquely American traits?

Pete: The singular thread I found was an overwhelming sense of self-reliance. Liberalism in the classical sense, John Stuart Mill.

AndrewEveryone likes barbeque.

Did you return from the trip more or less optimistic about the future of the country?

Andrew: Certainly more optimistic. One of the things that struck me most about the places that we visited was all the conversation. In all these pockets of America, folks more than willing, eager even, to talk and debate reach new conclusions. I don’t think it’s the impression you’d get of our citizens from watching the nightly news, but it’s something I observed in every niche.

Andrew Hinderaker is a former TIME photo intern and a photojournalist whose work has appeared in TIME, The Wall Street Journal and New York Magazine.

Pete Pin is currently the international photo intern at TIME and a photographer whose work has also appeared in The New York Times and Forbes.

Katy Steinmetz is a reporter in TIME’s Washington bureau.

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Gordon Stettinius, Govenor, a collaboration with Terry Brown


Gordon Stettinius, Senator, a collaboration with Terry Brown

I'd like to offer up another option in our presidential election. Senator or Governor Gordon Stettinius has my complete support! I've known Gordon Stettinius for a number of years, and there is something about the man that resonates deeply with me. He's irreverent, he's self deprecating, he's smart, and is serious in the best possible way. He makes things happen and takes chances, and he is charging full speed ahead into new arenas of the photo world, and succeeding mightily as he goes.


Self Portrait with Murphy

In the last two years, Gordon has gone from being a father, photographer, and educator, to a father, photographer, educator, publisher, gallerist, and just about everything else. His new gallery venture, the Candela Gallery, includes the Candela Unbound Invitational Exhibition and the submission date is April 6th, 2012. And are you listening? There is NO entry fee.


Walker & Mary Kathryn, Richmond, VA

INTERVIEW

We first connected in the toy camera orbit, right after you were winding down Eye Caramba--which seems like a very long time ago…can you go back in time and share your journey into photography and to launching a very early e-zine?

Eye Caramba, the online magazine, was sort of a blip when I think of it now but I published I think 2-3 issues a year for a few years. Really, it is a little quaint to think about how the web magazine then looked because the graphics had to be so pared down, and one 35 kilobyte image to a page was about as much as most people had time for. Try to put two images on a page and you may as well get up and fix dinner while the page loaded. I guess the real reason for starting something online was I had been wanting to mimic SHOTS magazine because I loved the community that revolved around that particular magazine. I was living in Minneapolis at the time but had an occasion to visit Bob Owen in Texas in 1995 or so just to get a feel for what type of work went into the publishing of SHOTS. And I was mulling over doing something like what Bob was doing or maybe a tabloid like Photo Metro used to be... But then soon after, Bob called me up and said his wife had taken a job in Minneapolis and he was moving to town in just a few months. So, it struck me as somehow a little off to try to mimic SHOTS but in the same town. And so I tabled the idea but thought that an online magazine might have some potential.

The interwebs were less fantastical then and many photographers needed help with compressing their work and nothing was particularly fluid on the content management side but I bumped along for a while. As it turns out, I was just a poser. SHOTS is still around luckily though and Russell Joslin has done a great job over the years after taking over for Bob. So, I eventually took over Eye Caramba as my own site as I always liked the sound of it.

As to the toy camera side of the equation, I had been using plastic cameras for almost as long as I was making pictures. The low fidelity world was sort of a pre-information wilderness also back then - another reason I loved SHOTS actually was the toy camera issue. So, when the Great Lakes toy site morphed into toycamera.com I was pretty enthusiastic about all of my new friends. And we actually had a pretty good run there for some years. I guess I have always enjoyed being part of a photo community and that may answer some of the later questions as well.


Ninjas, Richmond, VA

Where did you get your sense of humor and your smart irreverence for anything with a whiff of B.S.?

The slightly embellished response would be that once I started taking photography more seriously, and started running with more and more photographers, I realized that there was a whole lot of earnestness in this world. And truly, I believe that photography does have the potential to bring attention to some of the injustices of the world or to make real what can only be felt in one's heart or illuminate the issues facing us at most every turn. Really photography can do many of these great things and more... but somehow, I realized that people who were often doing more or less exactly what they wanted to do and then through the miracle of retro-elaborate proto-academical post rationalization, were conjuring all this compelling and deep jargon for their work. To read the accompanying artist statements, to certain otherwise quite fine work, was occasionally mind-blowing. How on earth did every single photograph in the fine art world get so imbued with such unfettered self-importance? I am not a cynic through and through but we can get pretty up our own arse sometimes. And I will lump myself in that crowd too.


Hands Off, Washington DC

Why the toy camera?

After I graduated from school, I wound up trying a couple different toy cameras when I was busy trying all manner of vintage equipment. My degree was a BA in studio art, doing mostly printmaking and drawing. So a lot of my photo education was post-college with the buying of thrift store cameras and different gear. I just didn't believe in the connection between expensive gear and 'better' images. I was more drawn to pinhole and plastic lenses and peculiar unpredictability.


Emmett, Richmond, VA

Before Gita Lenz came into your life, had you any thoughts of being a publisher? (Gordon's essay on Gita Lenz is here).

No, not really. Though I was drawn to the idea of zines and community as I mention above. Mostly, I just wanted to see that Gita got the type of book I felt she deserved and I was not thrilled with my first forays I to Print On Demand.

I can only image what a satisfying result it was to not only get the book published in her lifetime, but to have her experience a solo exhibition….

I wish I had really gotten this whole enterprise going a few years earlier because Gita was not fully of sound mind towards the end but still it was a beautiful thing to see her amazement about the book and the pride she took in her photography.


Gita Lenz Empire State Building, late 1940s - 1950s

Salt and Truth definitely put Candela Books on the radar of the book and photo world and what a terrific selection as a follow up to Gita Lenz. How did you come to work with Shelby Lee Adams?

Basically, it all comes down to timing. I started thinking about what sort of second book I might follow Gita's with and I had just assumed it would be a smaller project. But Shelby and I started talking when he was just starting to circulate a new book proposal and after a bit of research where I sorted out how I might improve my distribution from the first time out, I started in earnest discussing with Shelby about what his proposed book might look like. We both had some ideas about how his fourth book might differ in certain ways from his earlier books. So we had several conversations before I think we both felt it was a good match between us.

With both books, what has been the most satisfying part as a publisher? And what has been the most difficult or unexpected part of the process?

There are a number of elements to the process that provided a pretty good learning curve but really a lot of the challenge has to do with budget and time management. It isn't terribly tough when you are working with good people. In my case, I started by working with a design firm - Scout Design - I had worked with on several smaller projects and they are so detail oriented that I was free to have the larger concepts in the front of my mind and trust them to do their work.


Limited Edition of Salt and Truth

How many books do you plan to publish each year, and how do you go about finding your projects?

We are bringing one book out in the fall and expect to bring two books out next year. More news on this very soon.

As of last fall, you are now not only a photographer, publisher, and educator, but now a gallerist! How did the Candela Gallery get started?

A couple of years back, I started looking for a new studio space. And then the idea evolved into having a space that might function as a studio and office for Candela. Then the space I wound up investing in was in the downtown arts district and we have pretty amazing foot traffic. So the idea evolved some more, since I intend to work with quality photographers, I figured that putting their work up was a fairly natural decision. I was not quite prepared for the level of work it takes to run a gallery but everything has been very well-received so far. This year is scheduled now and I have gotten pretty excited about the way the year is going to go.


Julio Mitchel

I love the work of Julio Mitchel, your next exhibition at the gallery. What drew you to this artist?

Julio also approached me about a couple of potential book projects. While I still have something to learn about projects and their potential crossover, I was immediately struck by a few of Julio's different projects as well as his earlier books. His work is so very well seen and amazingly printed. A couple of months ago, I spent a couple of days with Julio looking at an incredible amount of work and decided that, while I am researching the markets to see if I can effectively produce and distribute quality books for the projects he will eventually publish, I would be excited to share his work through the gallery.


Julio Mitchel

Are you still teaching, or does the Candela empire take up most of your energies?

I am still teaching actually. I am teaching adjunct, a traditional darkroom class at VIrginia Commonwealth University.


Colonic, Richmond, VA

April 6th marks the deadline for the Unbound Collection. Can you tell us about this call for entry and your ideas behind it?

The idea stems from having only a limited number of open slots in the gallery schedule. I really wanted one show that would allow more photographers a chance to connect with Candela in some way and the rest of the shows in a given year will generally be solo shows or book related. I feel that most mid career photographers have done their share of juried shows and I wanted something that would be open in concept but that would also be worth doing for the photographers. No fees because I hope to raise money through a special event. Then the money from that event will be used to purchase work from the show. The idea is a little uncharted for me but the response has been great so far. And now to put together an event that will bring in a great crowd at a decent ticket price. Ideas we are entertaining include... Door prizes, gift wrapped crap, drunken clowns, PBR, live music... I also enjoy putting together a good night every now and then.


Another Pro Choice Welder, Richmond, VA

Are you up to anything new with your own work?

My own work has slowed down a bit. But I continue to work on the Mangini Series with Terry Brown and I am shooting randomly and getting into the darkroom some. I do have an idea for a 'project' that hasn't yet been started and I have a semi-ambitious show idea coming in 2013 that should also keep me going.


Green Tuft, a collaboration with Terry Brown


Beehive, a collaboration with Terry Brown


Combover, a collaboration with Terry Brown


Long & Straight, a collaboration with Terry Brown

And finally, what would be your perfect day?

Um... er... Some family time, a few hours in the darkroom, music, bourbon, humor, maybe a little bowling?


Feet, Toronto, Canada

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FLAG RUN
FLAG RUN: An Afghan police officer ran after confiscating a U.S. flag from protesters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday. Hours after the Taliban urged retaliation against Westerners for the burning of Qurans at Bagram Airfield, an Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. troops in Nangarhar, killing two soldiers. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

LIFE ON MAIN STREET
LIFE ON MAIN STREET: People watched Republican presidential candidates debate on a large television screen on Main Street in Mesa, Ariz., Wednesday. Arizona and Michigan Voters go to the polls Feb. 28 in primary elections. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

DIGGING IN
DIGGING IN: Police removed pro-choice advocate Margaret Doyle after a state Senate committee approved a bill Thursday in Richmond, Va., that defines life as starting at conception. The vote now sends the bill to the full state Senate. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch/Associated Press)

PRIMETIME PUTIN
PRIMETIME PUTIN: A big monitor showed current prime minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin speaking during a rally at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow Thursday. Mr. Putin warned against the dangers of foreign influence. (Maxim Shipenkov/European Pressphoto Agency)

HEALING HAND
HEALING HAND: A family member placed his hand on the forehead of a man who was injured in a bombing of a bus station in Peshawar, Pakistan, Thursday. At least 12 people were killed. (Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)

MIGHTY CLOSE
MIGHTY CLOSE: A barber used a blade to clean a customer’s eyelid in Suining, Sichuan province, China, Thursday. According to traditional Chinese beliefs, getting a haircut on the second day of the second Chinese lunar month, which falls on Feb. 23, is likely to bring good luck. (Reuters)

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Name- Franklin Obregon
Age- 24
Where are you from?- Born in Caracas, Venezuela. Raised in Richmond, VA.
Your equipment- Olympus Stylus Epic for the most. Nikon dlsrs, Mamiya c330, Fuji Instax, Canon p&s other times.

Influences and photographers you like- Influenced by everything that I consume. All that I see, eat, hear has an effect on what I shoot and how I shoot it. It's all an attempt to encapsulate the feeling of the moment as to not forget. I have really bad memory so being able to look at a photograph and remembering how happy/sad/etc I felt at the time is key.
Photographers that I enjoy are Patrick Tobin, Noah Kalina, Jonathan Leder, Ana Kras, Lina Scheynius, Pierre Wayser, Martin Parr, Chad Moore, Chip Willis, Dimitri Karakostas, Lukasz Wierzbowski, and Michel Comte.
A little about you- There is a divide in the work that I produce, film vs. digital, the look and the overall effect. The film stuff has a narrative because it's essentially my life. I like film more because of the grain, the tonal range, and the fact that I won't really know what a photo will look like until I get it developed.
The digital is a once-in-a-while type of thing nowadays. The digital stuff that I shoot I feel is more clean, creamy. It's a whole different monster. Usually it's mostly used when I'm shooting models.
I am in the process of putting together a couple of new zines. I have one out now thru PogoBooks. Go check it out.

franklinobregon.net/
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ALL PHOTOS BY FRANKLIN OBREGON

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The United States and allied forces have been in Afghanistan for over ten years, an occupation that approaches the 2014 deadline for a full withdrawal of those forces. As the transition draws closer, problems with security, the economy, and cultural mores are growing even more apparent. Included in this monthly look at Afghanistan are images that highlight these issues, as well as images that point to a more hopeful future. The activist group YoungWomen4Change prepares posters demanding women's rights even as the horrific torture of 15-year-old Sahar Gul, who refused her husband's family's demands that she become a prostitute, came to light. Also included here are images of another Afghan girl, 12-year-old Tarana Akbari, who witnessed the terrible suicide bombing in Kabul that killed at least 80 Shiites during observances of the Ashura holiday. The bombing has raised fears of renewed sectarian violence. -- Lane Turner (37 photos total)
A man feeds pigeons in front of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, or Blue Mosque, in Mazar-e-Sharif on December 22, 2011. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

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In the year 2011, a total of 565 NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan were killed -- down from 711 in 2010 -- marking the largest decline in annual deaths during the decade-long conflict. The large number of NATO soldiers on the ground appears to have made a difference, a fact that worries Afghans as the U.S. and others accelerate their planned pullback. This year, 23,000 U.S. soldiers are scheduled to depart the country, heading toward a full withdrawal by 2014. For now, U.S. troops appear to be focusing on intensive training of Afghan forces and preparing for the logistical challenge of shipping home some $30 billion worth of military gear. Gathered here are images of the people and places involved in this conflict over the past month, as part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan. [42 photos]

Cpl. James Hernandez, a combat engineer with Alpha Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, and a native of Goodyear, Arizona, uses an electric saw to dismantle a HESCO barrier at Firebase Saenz, in Helmand province, on December 13, 2011. FB Saenz is the first of several patrol bases being demilitarized by the Marines of 9th ESB throughout the month of December. (USMC/Cpl. Bryan Nygaard)

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Rebecca Flaig of Goochland, Va., left, and Ryan Jung of Richmond hold their umbrellas aloft as part of the World AIDS Day event on Brown’s Island in Richmond, Va. on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. A sea of red umbrellas, in the form of a giant red ribbon, were displayed. A man holds a poster featuring [...]

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The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to grow and has now spread across the world, motivating thousands to voice their anger at financial and social inequality, and in some places merging with existing anti-government protests. On Saturday, a global "Day of Rage" was observed, and demonstrations took place in more than 80 countries around the world. Protesters took their messages and anger to the streets from Hong Kong to Fairbanks, from Miami to London, from Berlin to Sydney, and hundreds more cities large and small. The demonstrations were largely peaceful -- with the exception of some violent clashes in Rome. Collected here are some images from the past several days as the Occupy Wall Street message continues to resonate and grow. [50 photos]

A participant protests with a mock 500 euro bill during a demonstration to support the "Occupy Wall Street" movement in Munich southern Germany, on October 15, 2011. Protestors gathered at many major European cities Saturday to join in demonstrations against corporate greed and inequality.(AP Photo/Joerg Koch)

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HEAVY LIFTING
HEAVY LIFTING: Workers installed a Wells Fargo sign at the bank’s downtown office in Richmond, Va., Tuesday. (Joe Mahoney/Times Dispatch/Associated Press)

ELECTRICAL HEALING
ELECTRICAL HEALING: Residents lay on railway tracks in West Java Province, Indonesia, Wednesday. They believe the electrical energy from the tracks will cure them of various illnesses. (Enny Nuraheni/Reuters)

PAPER PLANES
PAPER PLANES: Hundreds of protesters threw paper planes outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong Wednesday. They demonstrated against the government. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

FIRM HANDSHAKE
FIRM HANDSHAKE: President Barack Obama shook the prosthetic hand of Army Sgt. First Class Leroy Petry of New Mexico, who received the Medal of Honor Tuesday at the White House for tossing aside a grenade, sparing his comrades in Afghanistan in 2008. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

PASSENGER SAVED
PASSENGER SAVED: Rescuers saved a passenger from a vehicle that fell into the Daning River in Wuxi County, Chongqing Municipality, China, Wednesday. At least four people were killed. (Photomall/Xinhua/Zuma Press)

ON THE BELT
ON THE BELT: A police officer escorted a passenger off a conveyor belt at Paris’ Orly airport Wednesday. Scuffles broke out between passengers and Air Algerie personnel after the Algerian airline canceled flights as a strike by pilots and flight attendants entered a third day. (Maxppp/Zuma Press)

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