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Super Tuesday

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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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