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David Shneer

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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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On Tuesday, Mitt Romney will conclude a nearly six-year campaign journey for the White House — and his supporters, as Christopher Morris’ latest photo essay reveals, could not be more earnest or more ready. The former Massachusetts Governor launched his first presidential bid in February 2007, and his second in June, 2011 — now the polls are tight and battleground states like Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Florida hang in the balance. Even though Hurricane Sandy disrupted the campaign flow in its final days, Republicans continue to hope that Romney’s earlier momentum and economic vision will win him the 270 electoral votes needed to take the oath of office in January.

Photojournalist Christopher Morris spent the last week of the campaign photographing Romney on the trail for TIME. He first photographed the Republican nominee back in the New Hampshire primary and has witnessed his journey to the upcoming finale. Last week he crisscrossed the country with the campaign, from Canton and Kettering, Ohio, to Tampa and Land O’Lakes, Fla.

Morris trains his lens on the voters rallying with great expectations to Romney’s side. Their anticipation and determination can almost be physically felt. Many politicos have summed this election up as two men and two parties with very different visions for America’s future, and Morris’ images capture just how deep this divide plunges. “I was a bit taken back by the strong division in the country, with a palpable disdain and hatred for President Obama by the crowds at the Romney events,” says Morris, who covered the George W. Bush’s two terms in the White House. “Having covered Gore, Kerry, Bush, and McCain, I’ve never quite seen it like this.”

Morris produced My America, a look at Republican nationalism in the country during George W. Bush’s terms. Later this month, Steidl will release Morris’ new book Americans, which further examines a nation in divide.

Christopher Morris is a contract photographer for TIME and is represented by VII

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American citizens—and those applying for the title—learn early that they have two primary civic responsibilities: voting and jury duty. As voting booths are installed in our common areas across the nation—in schools, gyms, firehouses, grocery stores and municipal buildings—we realize the true weight of our duties as citizens.

Michael Mergen, an assistant professor of photography at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., became particularly interested in voters—and voting locations—while working as a photojournalist during the 2004 presidential election. When he walked into a barbershop-turned-polling center in west Philadelphia, Mergen thought to himself, ‘This has to be preserved.’

In the years since, Mergen has photographed countless voting booths, jury rooms and naturalization facilities in his quest to document what he considers essential parts of being an American. After combing through thousands of polling sites on Excel spreadsheets, the photographer then chose stations located in private homes or unusual businesses; his journeys have taken him to pizza parlors, living rooms, garages, funeral homes and other eccentric spots scattered across Philadelphia. His eight years of work have yielded three revealing yet non-partisan series aptly titled, Vote, Deliberate and Naturalization, which collectively seek to underscore the importance of citizen-driven governance.

“There are few instances in our lives where as an American you can say, ‘I was a citizen today,’” Mergen says. “We are citizens everyday going about our business, but it’s rare when that becomes an actual tangible event. It’s kind of amazing that casting a vote at Bud’s Tire in Murfreesboro, Tenn. actually [contributes to] President Obama or Governor Romney winning.”

Michael Mergen is a Virginia-based photographer. 

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The 1939 edition of Robert Frost’s Collected Poems contained an introductory essay that wasn’t in the first edition. In that article, entitled “The Figure a Poem Makes,” Frost wrote, “Like giants we are always hurling experience ahead of us to pave the future with against the day when we may want to strike a line of purpose across it for somewhere.”

Though he didn’t know it at the time, acclaimed photographer Joel Meyerowitz began hurling his own experiences ahead of him in 1962. While working as an art director at an advertising agency, Meyerowitz met photographer Robert Frank who was shooting a clothing brochure. Meyerowitz watched Frank move while he photographed, and he had an incredible epiphany. On the way back to the office, Meyerowitz walked the streets of New York for more than an hour. “I felt like I was reading the text of the street in a way that I never had before,” he says.

When he returned to the office, Meyerowitz told his boss, Harry Gordon, that he was quitting. He wanted to be a photographer. Gordon then asked him a crucial question: did he have a camera? The answer was no, so Gordon lent him a 35mm camera and Meyerowitz embarked on the great journey of his life.

Over the next 50 years Meyerowitz exhibited at the MoMA, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, published books and taught photography at Cooper Union. But there was always one place where you had a chance to run into him and become immortalized in his gargantuan body of work. Meyerowitz is, first and foremost, a street photographer. Though he has shot street scenes in France, Germany, Atlanta, Ohio and dozens of places in between, the chaotic streets of New York City make up his favorite studio. “Fifth Avenue is my boulevard,” he says. “No street in the world, and I’ve traveled a lot, has for me the kind of sexy, improvisatory collisions between elegance and lowness. You can see bike messengers and models, billionaires and hustlers, and it’s all out there every day.”

That first day with Robert Frank served as more than just a catalytic inspiration; it laid the foundation for how Meyerowitz would record street life. He bobs and weaves through the throngs of people, searching for that serendipitous moment that becomes a great photograph. “The way someone makes a gesture on the street or the way couples react to each other or the simultaneity of two things happening at the same time and the relationship between them,” are some of the elements he looks for. “It was the wonder of human nature and this incredible capacity for things to keep showing themselves to me,” he says.

 Taking My Time (Phaidon Press, November 2012)

Phaidon Press

Joel Meyerowitz: Taking My Time (Phaidon Press. Limited Edition including signed print, November 2012)

When he is shooting on the street, there isn’t much time to contemplate each moment. “Photography takes place in a fraction of a second,” Meyerowitz says. “There isn’t a lot of time to think about things. You have to hone your instinct. You learn to hone that skill and timing so you’re in the right place at the right time.” Although he has made images that have moved audiences for decades, that has never been his true motivation. “I’m not out there to make another ‘great picture,’” he says. “I’m really out there to feel what it feels like to be alive and conscious in that moment. In a sense, the record of my photographs is a record of moments of consciousness and awareness that have come to me in my life.”

This year, the 50th anniversary of when he first took up the camera, Meyerowitz compiled hundreds of his favorite images for the two-volume collection, Joel Meyerowitz: Taking My Time (Phaidon Press). The project isn’t just a greatest hits collection. “It’s easy to make a book of your very best things and not necessarily have a narrative arc,” he says. “I wanted to stick strictly to the chronology as precisely as I could and show my own development.” The result is a visual biography of an artist who for half a century has snapped moments–fractions of seconds–and preserved them forever. Each tells a unique story that Meyerowitz has used to pave his life. Through the images of people and places and tiny moments in time, one can see a remarkable line of purpose he has created, one that runs fluidly across the experience of his life.

Joel Meyerowitz is a New York City-based photographer. Beginning Nov. 2, his work will be displayed in a two-part solo show at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York.

LightBox previously featured Meyerowitz’s photographs of the destruction and reconstruction at Ground Zero.

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Stanley Kubrick’s professional career began April 12, 1945, as the high school junior — with a prolific track record of absences — wandered the streets of the Bronx and snapped a picture of a crestfallen newsstand dealer surrounded by headlines announcing the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As childhood friend Alexander Singer tells the story, Kubrick immediately ran to his home darkroom, which his father had built to encourage the scholastic underachiever’s budding interest in photography, printed the picture and made a sale that same afternoon to Look Magazine. The following year, when no colleges would accept Kubrick because of his poor academic record, Look hired him as a full-time staff photographer.

Singer and Kubrick had forged a bond over shared scholastic apathy and mutual respect of each other’s extracurricular achievements — Singer as editor of the school literary arts magazine, and Kubrick as the kid with a camera around his neck: “almost a caricature of what you’d imagine a teenage cameraman would look like,” as Singer describes. When plans to photograph a feature-length cinematic adaptation of Homer’s Iliad written and directed by Singer proved too ambitious, Kubrick struck upon the idea to instead translate one of his own photographic essays to the big screen.

That essay was Prizefighter, published by Look in January 1949, and described by Kubrick biographer Vincent LoBrutto as the moment he came of age as a photojournalist. The seven-page story depicted scenes from the life of Bronx-born middleweight boxer Walter Cartier as he trained and prepared to enter the ring against moments from his romantic and domestic lives. Often working under stark, overhead light with infrared film (also favored by his idol, Weegee), Kubrick captured high-contrast images that emphasized Walter’s physique and cast brooding, incisive shadows on his face.

Prizefighter would go on to define Kubrick in other ways, though. It might have been his dawning moment as a photojournalist, but the essay would also serve as the basis of the first film Kubrick would direct, called Day at the Fight, released two years later.

The 20-year old Kubrick made the decision to shoot his first film on 35mm rather than the lighter, more economical 16mm format favored by amateurs—a bold decision by someone who later described the entirety of his motion picture camera training as a hands-on demonstration at an equipment house. Kubrick and Singer used Bell & Howell’s Eyemo, a lightweight camera introduced 1926 for use in newsreels and military applications and advertised, perhaps over-optimistically, “as convenient to carry as the average size ‘still’ camera.” Kubrick photographed most of the project solo, and Singer joined on a second ringside camera to capture the live fight scene. A third camera operator also filmed from high in the auditorium.

Comparing the Prizefighter contact sheets side-by-side with Day of the Fight, one gets the sense that much of the creative legwork had been worked out during the photo essay, which, despite its ostensible documentary subject matter, was chiefly constructed through deliberately-staged scenes. But Day of the Fight is a distinctly cinematic work; particularly remarkable is Kubrick’s ability to control time and add an element of suspense in portraying Walter’s anticipation of the fight, a trait missing in Prizefighter. The first-time director was also aided by the fact that the physical spectacle of boxing lends itself to cinema. After all, the first feature-length film ever released was a 1897 St. Patrick’s Day fight between James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Many of the same setups from the contact sheets and short film are repeated in Kubrick’s subsequent work, particularly his second feature, Killer’s Kiss, a seedy yarn about a down-on-his-luck fighter.

Although Kubrick is regarded as the most critically and commercially successful photographer turned full-time feature filmmaker, this mainstream acclaim might also be the reason his name rarely enters the discussion of the legendary New York-based photographers and their progressive contributions to avant garde and non-narrative filmmaking. This tradition includes Paul Strand (Manhatta, 1921), Rudy Burckhardt (The Pursuit of Happiness, 1940) Helen Levitt (In the Street, 1949), Ruth Orkin & Morris Engel (The Little Fugitive, 1953), William Klein (Broadway by Light, 1958) and Robert Frank (Pull My Daisy, 1959), among whose varying innovations include discrete handheld photography, examples of “life caught unawares,” and blurring lines between documentary and staged situations. Kubrick’s perceived youth and inexperience may be another factor in this oversight: though several writers have supported their praise of The Little Fugitive by recalling that the ten-years-senior Engel claimed a 25-year-old Kubrick attempted to rent his uniquely-constructed equipment for his own first feature (Fear and Desire), Kubrick’s production predates The Little Fugitive by several months. Furthermore, much of Kubrick’s early work has not been widely available to the public — per Kubrick’s wishes, Fear and Desire only recently resurfaced after decades of suppression.

One could hardly argue Day of the Fight is a major work in the context of documentary film or Kubrick’s entire oeuvre, but it remains a fascinating key to understanding the development of Kubrick as an artist and entrepreneur—an under-appreciated example of the maverick cinematic approaches developed by street photographers. Undoubtedly, Day of the Fight is one of the most assured and mature endeavors undertaken by someone approaching a film camera for the first time.

Jon Dieringer is an independent curator and the editor and publisher of Screen Slate, a daily online resource for listings and commentary of New York City repertory film and independent media.

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Why do we like haunted houses? Wars, terror, drones, pandemics, rising sea levels, killer bees, fungi in pain meds—isn’t the world scary enough? Yet we line up for what the industry calls HHA’s—haunted house attractions (as opposed, presumably, to actual haunted houses)—hoping to be freaked out. And if we believe the current web meme Scared Bros in a Haunted House, it works. Totally freaky, dude.

In fact, scaring people is a growing industry, rapidly gaining on Hollywood in revenues. Forty years ago, haunted houses were limited to scary carnival sideshows. Now there are magazines, websites, and trade shows for operators of haunted attractions, providing info on the latest trends: zombie runs, animatronics, 3-D, screamparks. In fact, Haunted House magazine boasts: “The haunted house industry is an American export.” We have no trade deficit in fear.

On one level, this is easy to understand. It’s all about death—that undiscovered country our culture keeps off the thought-map. Death, death, death, coming at us in the form of ghosts, monsters, maggots, snakes, killer clowns, necromancers, headless horsemen, slime crawlers, banshees, and all manner of rotting flesh and decay, aiming to infect us with its fate. The haunted house takes us to death’s door: sewers, graveyards, mortuaries, abattoirs, bottomless pits and of course, hell itself, yawning wide to receive us. Abandon all hope and enter at your own risk!

But of course, there is no risk: the journey allows us to brave death and make it out alive, the very thing we wish—oh man, do we wish—we could do for real. Every scream, every start, every time we nearly pee our pants is a shot of Red Bull to our love of life, a reminder that we hate to leave it.

Once, while on assignment together at Niagara Falls, Lisa Kereszi and I went to Ghostblasters, a haunted house crossed with a laser tag game. It was around the time that Lisa started shooting haunted houses, and secretly she was afraid every time she went to one. She thought she might get killed and end up as a haunted house display, but she didn’t tell me this. We climbed into a jerky little cart and got yanked through a maze of semi-scary dioramas. When the ghosts popped up, I shot them with a pistol and Lisa shot them with a Mamiya.

You don’t need to be Susan Sontag to understand that photographing something reduces its fear factor. Lisa’s pictures show us the haunted house as a fail: the paint peeling off plywood, the boom box strapped to the wall, the dust in the corners of the makeshift Bates Motel. “I challenged my fears,” she told me, “but it didn’t totally work.”

That’s because the pictures are somehow scary all over again—and sadder than the haunted house itself. Reality is seeping into these pictures like maggots squirming into a leaky coffin. Walls are cracking open, curtains gape onto the next room, all those plugs and wires takes us right into the mortal hands of the folks we’re paying for this illusion of an illusion, this brief moment of terror we can conquer, unlike the real dread lurking behind it. These fearful fragments we have shored against our real ruins. They’re no match for what really frightens us: blood, as the sign in one picture says, guts, gore. Meat sacs, long pigs, wetware, bags of bones, bleeders. Our horrors, ourselves.

Lisa Kereszi is a photographer based in New Haven, Conn.

Ginger Strand is the author of Flight, Inventing Niagara and Killer on the Road, which traces how violence followed construction of the interstate highway system.

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LightBox presents an exclusive look at an interactive, narrative documentary about gang violence in Guatemala told through the story of Alma, a young former gang member.

“In an isolated house, there was a girl older than me. Blond, begging to be spared…my whole body was telling me not to, but in the end I killed her. I knew I would get killed myself is I did not obey.” —Alma

Alma was only 15 years old the first time she took a life. As a member of one of the most violent gangs in Guatemala, the Mara 18, Alma spent eight years of her young life in a world ruled by violence. After a brutal beating caused her to suffer a miscarriage, Alma had enough, but her effort to leave the gang was met with an assassination attempt that left her a paraplegic. Today, at 26, Alma hopes to help stop the kind of violence that ruled her life for so long.

Gang violence is an enormous problem in Guatemala—a country of just 14 million people with one of the highest murder rates in the world. Alma’s story is indicative of a pattern that has affected a generation of disenfranchised youth in her country. She grew up in a cardboard and plastic shack in one of the most dangerous slums in Guatemala City. With a largely absent mother and an alcoholic father, gang life appealed to a 15-year-old girl looking for protection and comfort.

“I feel I have never received love from anyone,” Alma said. “I looked for another family in a gang, in which all members were like me, undergoing lack of love…for the first time in my life I felt loved and respected. ”

Miquel Dewever-Plana—Agence VU

At the age of 22, Alma told her “homies” (the members of her gang) that she wanted to leave. The retaliation came on the same day when two of them attempted to murder her. She survived, but is now paraplegic.

In 2008, Alma met photographer Miquel Dewever-Plana, who has been photographing the violence in Guatemala since 2007. Intrigued by Alma’s beauty and candor, amid such a cruel environment, Plana stayed in touch with the young woman, eventually realizing her story could be a powerful way-in to explain the larger tale of violence in Guatemala.

“I became convinced that her intelligence and forceful nature made her the icon I was looking for,” Plana said in an interview with Le Pelerin weekly’s Catherine Lalanne. “She was the key to understanding the most secretive twists and turns of the gang phenomenon.”

After a year-and-a-half of consideration, Alma agreed to collaborate with Plana and writer Isabelle Fougere. Her story is at the center of a new, multi-platform project centered around an interactive web documentary that presents Alma’s narration in a straight-forward confessional format. Plana’s photographs of her Guatemalan neighborhood and its gangs help to visualize the violent world in which she lived and powerful drawings by Hugues Micol illustrate troubling scenes from Alma’s life.

Working with a team of designers at the French creative studio Upian, Plana and Fougere, say they intended to create a final product—with a sensitive and innovative approach to a narrative— that would be interactive and accessible. The final product, which took two years to develop, is incredibly in-depth—allowing its audience to explore the story through the innovative web piece, two books and a film, all available in four languages. Supplemental materials were also designed for classroom use.

“This combination of media communicates Alma’s reality in the most effective way,” Plana said. “The web documentary was designed to inform young people about the dangers of gang life. That was my ultimate goal.”

Plana and Fougere recognize the confusing emotions that came as their relationship with Alma developed. “I see Alma as a friend,” Plana said. “But I never forget what she did, and it is impossible for me to justify her deeds.”

Plana has worked and studied in Guatemala’s since 1995 and has documented the country’s gang violence since 2007. It was this experience—which included extensive interviews with mareros in prison—that prepared him to understand and contextualize Alma’s situation.

Despite the risk of exposure and the discomfort of reliving such painful experiences, for Alma, the project was an opportunity to bear witness to her past and to attempt to prevent other youth from choosing the same fate.

“It was very painful for Alma to talk without feeling judged, to empty her haunted conscience of all these gruesome memories and guilt,” Fougere said. “This web-documentary is her path to redemption.”

Watching Alma speak on screen, it is difficult to connect the words with the woman. Soft-spoken, with long black hair and soft features, Alma slowly describes in brutal detail taking the life of another woman and enduring beatings at the hands of her “homies.” But it is precisely in this disconnect that the power of this project lies—it emphasizes that Guatemala’s gang violence is not the result of a few crazed individuals, but a tragic consequence of social problems so endemic that they can turn a young girl into a brutal criminal.

“Alma’s extremely violent story seemed emblematic of the desperation of youths from shanty town, totally abandoned by a society rife with corruption and impunity,” said Fougere. “[she is] Both victim and perpetrator of this endemic violence.”

Today, Alma lives a quiet life. Confined to a wheelchair, she works as a gift-wrapper  in a shop and lives with her boyfriend, Wilson, in a rented room. Further retaliation from her former gang is a constant threat, but she focuses on her dream of going to college to study psychology.

“I hope that [one]day I have the means to help these young people fascinated by the world of gangs,” she said. “And to finally break this chain of violence which only leads to a certain death.”

Miquel Dewever-Plana is a photographer represented by VU’. See more of his work here.

Isabelle Fougere is a French journalist, writer and director focused on human rights.

Alma: A Tale of Violence was released on arte.tv on Oct. 25, 2012. It was produced by Upian, a French creative studio that has won numerous awards for their web documentaries including First Prize in World Press Photo 2011.

All quotes by Miquel Dewever-Plana and Isabelle Fougere are from an interview with Le Pelerin weekly’s Catherine Lalanne, which is a component of the Alma project.

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