On the campaign trail with the Underdog
By Jessica Rinaldi
Every four years we photographers load our suitcases with layers of warm clothes and head to the Granite State to photograph the political frenzy that is the New Hampshire Primary. New Hampshire and Iowa are considered by many to be retail politics at their best, the states where candidates get on the ground to talk with voters, and local residents have the unique chance to see who the candidates are. It’s an opportunity for the candidates to test out their talking points and fine tune their campaign strategy, to see what floats.
While all of that is well and good in the warm summer months at the beginning of their journey, by the time that chilly spotlight turns from Iowa to New Hampshire they tend to have already become well-seasoned politicians. It is with that knowledge that we head to New Hampshire, where we know that we will be composing other photographers in or out of our shots depending on the story and jostling for position in front of the diner booth, factory worker, rotary club member, or veteran that happens to call to us at one of the many campaign events we shoot throughout the day. At least, that’s what I had figured I would do this time around.
Enter U.S. Presidential candidate and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, the only major candidate I’ve ever seen drive to his own campaign events. Huntsman, who skipped out on the Iowa caucus in favor of focusing all of his efforts on New Hampshire has done over 150 campaign events in this state but curiously only seems to have found his stride just now.
Over the past six days I have documented his campaign as it went from events where I was the only still photographer to having to clamor for position among a throng of other media. A few days ago we really did get a glimpse of the grassroots politics that this state is known for. Photographing him at a small rally of supporters outside or walking into a staff cafeteria at a factory and sitting down with workers to discuss his policies, it was easy to find photos that showed him talking with voters and at the same time reflected his standing in the polls.
As the days went on and more voters and media started to turn up to his events the challenge became different. Looking for ways to show this slow shift in his campaign and picking up subtle momentum meant finding different angles to show voters starting to embrace him, as well as his reaction to the increased attention from the press.
He seemed to have hit a high point Sunday after his early morning debate. The crowd was unable to fit inside the Bean Towne coffee shop and Huntsman had to sneak in the back door where he stood on the counter to address supporters. Standing up on the counter with other still photographers and cameramen it felt as though Huntsman’s surge was palpable.