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After months of nearly non-stop campaigning, President Obama and his team have spent the last two weeks crisscrossing the country to make their final appeals to voters. Veteran political photographer Brooks Kraft has been there to document the campaign’s final days.

This was the eighth presidential campaign that Kraft has photographed, and his sixth for TIME. Over the years, he has honed his approach to shooting some of the most photographed men and women in the United States. Kraft rarely takes his pictures from the press platforms, preferring to move around, searching out unique angles and small details.

“I attempt to work around all the messaging and clutter surrounding the candidate, to take photographs that reflect the character of the campaign,” he told TIME.

These photographs, many shot in so-called ‘battleground’ states, capture the energy and exhaustion of a campaign winding down. Kraft captures both the quiet details—from Secret Service agents on a distant roof to a close-up of a pink breast cancer awareness bracelet on the President’s wrist — and the dramatic moments — ecstatic crowds pressing toward the stage and the President silhouetted against spotlights as he speaks.

Shooting politics for so many years has allowed Kraft to make iconic pictures that transcend the obvious. “Shooting campaigns requires patience and persistence,” he said. “It can take many days of long travel to find images that can last beyond the daily news cycle.”

Brooks Kraft is a Washington D.C.-based photographer.

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18 months ago photographer Jim Young began shooting with a Hasselblad x-pan panoramic film camera. He documented the list of Republican challengers lining up for a chance to go up against the President Obama for a place in the White House. With only days to go until the Presidential election, here’s a look back at the campaign on film. Read Jim’s personal account here.

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<< Previous | Next >>Webster City

Alazar "Junior" Soto lies in the Des Moines River while tubing on Sunday, July 15, 2012 in Lehigh, IA.
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When the Electrolux washing machine factory left Webster City, Iowa for Juarez, Mexico almost two years ago, it effectively knocked the town’s middle class to its knees. A sizable portion of the town’s population worked there, and they quickly found themselves scrambling to figure out what came next.

A couple of months after the plant closed down, photographer Brendan Hoffman first visited Webster City, which sits about 75 miles north of Des Moines. He was following former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who, at the time, was campaigning in the Republican presidential primary. The plight of the town presented itself to him as the bigger story.

“It was a story that I felt conflicted about and those are the kind of stories I’m most drawn to,” says Hoffman, who is a member of the Prime collective. “Sure, some of the people in Webster City are going to tell you that they got screwed over. But at the same time if we are going to consider this country to be a free-market democracy, whose is to stop [the company] from deciding that they can be more efficient by moving production to Mexico?”

Hoffman also knew he could follow the story beyond Iowa. One of his colleagues in Prime, Dominic Bracco, has been working in Juarez for years and could help him find the people who now work the jobs that used to belong to the residents of Webster City.

“This was a solidly middle class job when it was in Iowa and I’d like to see if it’s creating the same kind of jobs in Mexico,” he says.

Hoffman has been back to Webster City three times, putting together an ethnography of the town. In the spring he hopes to travel to Juarez to document the new Electrolux factory and have the story done by 2014, in time for NAFTA’s 20-year anniversary.

Instead of focusing on just one family in Webster City, he’s chosen to look more broadly at moments that slowly weave together a complicated story about a place in transition.

“I don’t think there is any way to ignore the fact that this is a major blow for the town. I wouldn’t be doing my job of being objective if I tried to gloss over that,” he says. “But at the same time it isn’t a surprise that companies have the option to move to a lower-wage country. The question comes up about whether the company has any responsibility to the town. I also don’t see why people aren’t more prepared for this kind of thing.”

While the Electrolux plant didn’t employ the entire town, Hoffman says the closing still had a seismic effect on everyone there. For those that did lose their jobs he says the Federal Government has stepped in and helped many of them go back to school through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Some former employees are also still living on unemployment while they look for new work. Others have ended up losing everything.

Showing this complexity in photos is difficult. Hoffman has the photo of a Webster City resident on his lawn with all his possession lined after being evicted and the photo of the shuttered plant. But he also has the photo of a dad joking around with his kids as they lay out under the stars on a summer night.

The dad, Steve McFarland, actually shows up in several of the photos. McFarland was never an Electrolux employee (he builds houses and frequently works outside Webster City) but for Hoffman he signifies someone who has found a way to work through the general economic problems in the town. Within the context of the story McFarland helps show the viewer that not everyone has thrown up their arms in despair.

“He’s not someone who worries about this future at all,” Hoffman says. “That’s probably unique in some ways, but he manages every week to have a couple dollars left over and as long as there’s something left over it’s all good.”

Some of Hoffman’s photos are more ambiguous. This summer, for example, he shot photos during the county fair, including the fair queens and the local parade. While people still lined the streets and dressed up for the contest, he says the whole event felt a little forced.

“It all kinda felt like an attempt to remain stoic,” he says. “They were trying to stay straight faced and let people know that everything is fine because look, our daughters can still be beauty queens.”

Struggling towns are nothing new in the United States, but Hoffman says he hopes that by visiting Juarez his work can provide a more three-dimensional view of an ongoing story that has affected much of the country. He’s been pushing to get an edit of the photos out before he heads to Mexico because this is an election year. Politicians on both sides love to toss around the word “middle class,” and with his story, Hoffman has provide them with a picture of what real life in the middle, or former middle, class really looks like.

“In the end I think people have to take responsibility for their own lives,” he says. “But imagine that you’re 50 years old and that’s the only job you ever had. All of sudden you have to find something new to do and maybe move somewhere new. That’s a really difficult decision for some people.”

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