Image: U.S. President Barack Obama attends a campaign event in Hilliard, Ohio. Nov. 2, 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama attends a campaign event in Hilliard, Ohio. Nov. 2, 2012.Brooks Kraft—Corbis for TIME
Image: U.S. President Barack Obama attends a campaign event in Hilliard, Ohio. Nov. 2, 2012.
Image: Romney addresses the crowd in Tampa, Fla. Oct. 31, 2012.
Image: Security at the rally in Tampa, Fla. Oct. 31, 2012.
Image: At a Romney campaign stop in Tampa, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Senator Rubio and Connie Mack. Oct. 31, 2012.
Image: A red-clad Romney supporter clutches two American flags during a rally in Land O’ Lakes, Fla. Oct. 27, 2012.
Image: Vice President Joe Biden during a campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio. Oct. 23, 2012.
Image:Paul Ryan and his wife exit their plane in Colombus, Ohio. Sept. 29, 2012.
Image: On the campaign trail with Paul Ryan. September 2012.
Image: Libertarian Party nominee, Gary Johnson crowd-surfs at a recent town hall meeting in Salt Lake City. Oct. 2, 2012.
Image: Volunteers from a variety of trades and businesses demolish American Legion Post 472 in Youngstown, Ohio to prepare the site for a new building that will be handicap accessible, among other enhancements. This is the third such project fully funded by donations from the community.
Image: An Obama campaign volunteer dismantles a tent after spending the night outside of the Board of Elections with Obama supporters and staff to cast their early vote in Youngstown, Ohio. Oct. 2, 2012.
Image: A farmer shuffles spilled corn into his combine on a farm near Redding. He plans to vote for Romney, because he is 'tired of the lies.' Oct. 1, 2012.
Image: A delegate from each state, Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Sept. 4, 2012.
Image: Inside the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Sept. 4, 2012.
Image:An attendee at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Sept. 4, 2012.
Image: Inside the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Sept. 4, 2012.
Image: Pete Laybourn, a Mormon delegate from Cheyenne, Wyo., attends an LDS Caucus meeting during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Sept. 4, 2012.
Image: First Lady Michelle Obama is shown on a television screen as she speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Sept. 4, 2012.
Image: Protestors outside the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Aug. 27, 2012.
Image: Details of Republican National Convention attendees in Tampa. August 2012.
Image: Details of Republican National Convention attendees in Tampa. August 2012.
Image: A delegate from each state, Republican National Convention in Tampa. August 2012.
Image: (Left) Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaking at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Aug. 29, 2012. (Right) Ann Romney addresses delegates during the second session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Aug. 28, 2012
Image: Mitt Romney with his wife Ann on stage at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Aug. 28, 2012.
Image: Attendees at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Aug. 28, 2012.
Image: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is seen on the final night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Aug. 30, 2012.
Image: The final night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Aug. 30, 2012.
Image: President Obama exits Air Force One upon arriving at the airport in Manchester, N.H. Aug. 18, 2012.
Image: After a day of campaigning, President Obama walks from Marine One to Air Force One to head home. Aug. 18, 2012.
Image: President Obama's motorcade heads to a rally in Rochester, N.H. Aug. 18, 2012.
Image: A pilot holds a sign to direct staff to their helicopter. President Obama, staff and press returned via helicopters to Manchester Airport from Rochester, N.H. after a campaign rally. Aug. 18, 2012.
Image: After a long day, President Obama waits in a tent before a rally at the Rochester Commons in Rochester N.H. Aug. 18, 2012.
Image: President Obama waits in the hallway while being introduced at a rally at Windham High School in Windham, N.H. Aug. 18, 2012.
Image: Mitt Romney allows Magan Munson, finance director on the Romney for President campaign (center) and a coworker pass onto the plane after a fundraiser in Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Aug. 18 2012.
Image: Young men listen to the Republican presidential candidate during a town-hall-style meeting at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. Aug. 20, 2012.
Image: Mitt Romney, in a quiet moment, works on the plane heading towards events in New Orleans. Aug. 20, 2012.
Image: President Obama speaks at a campaign event at Loudoun County High School in Leesburg, Va. Aug. 2, 2012.
Image: President Obama speaks in the rain during a campaign rally in Glen Allen, Va. July 14, 2012.
Image: A high school choir gets soaked in a downpour before a campaign rally for President Obama in Glen Allen, Va. July 14, 2012.
Image: Donald Trump speaks at The North Carolina GOP Convention at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C., during Joe Klein's annual road trip. June 1, 2012.
Image: Mitt Romney campaigns in Cornwall, Pa. alongside senator Pat Toomey and Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett. June 16, 2012.
Image: The crowd listens to Mitt Romney in Davenport, Iowa on day four of 'The Every Town Counts' bus tour. The tour would last five days and go through six states including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin. June 18, 2012.
Image: Ann Romney is helped off the stage by husband Mitt Romney and "body man" Garrett Jackson after giving a speech in Holland, Mich. on day five of 'The Every Town Counts' bus tour. June 19, 2012.
Image: Signs on a wall at Obama Headquarters in Phoenix. Arizona has historically voted Republican in recent presidential elections, though a string of conservative-backed anti-immigration legislation threatens to unify the state's oft-divided Latino vote against the Republicans in the upcoming election. Feb.12, 2012.
Image: High schoolers Jackson Parker, Aditya Vijay, Ben Wifler and Isabel Carter-Kahn man a phone bank at Phoenix's Obama Election Headquarters. Feb. 12, 2012.
Image: Mitt Romney and his wife Ann talk to reporters on his campaign plane in Columbus, Ohio, before taking off for Boston. March 6, 2012.
Image: A Newt Gingrich campaign event at Whiteford's restaurant in Laurens, S.C. Jan. 21, 2012.
Image: Rick Santorum leaves a restaurant in Kentwood, Mich., on the first day of having Secret Service agents assigned to his campaign. Feb. 28, 2012.
Image: Street scenes from Flint, Mich. February 2012.
Image: Flags decorate a strip mall near Rochester, N.H. just days before the primary election. Jan. 8, 2012.
Image: Performance artist and activist Vermin Supreme from Baltimore attends a Mitt Romney rally at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H. He is known for being a satirical candidate in various local, state and national elections in the U.S. Jan. 7, 2012.
Image: A young woman listens to Mitt Romney during a rally with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H. Jan. 8, 2012.
Image: Ron Paul makes a visit to the studio of WMUR in Manchester, N.H for a radio spot on the eve of the primary elections. Jan. 10, 2012.
Image: Rick Santorum speaks at a town hall meeting in Keene, N.H. Jan. 6, 2012.
Image: A flag outside of a home in Keene, N.H days before the primary elections. Jan. 6, 2012.
Image: A sign on the highway between Columbus, Ohio and Cincinnati. March 4, 2012.
Image: Children at a Rick Santorum rally at the American Legion hall in Westerville, Ohio. March 5, 2012.
Image: A Rick Santorum supporter cheers at the Lake County Republican Party rally in Willoughby, Ohio. March 2, 2012.
Image: A roadside sign outside Lebanon, Ohio. March 4, 2012.
Image: Volunteers Paul J. Besse (L) and Bruce Donelly make evening phone calls to Louisiana residents at Rick Santorum's Louisiana campaign headquarters in Jefferson Parish, Metairie, La. March 19, 2012.
Image: President Obama walks outside the White House along the Portico, from the West Wing to the Oval Office. Jan. 17, 2012.
Image: President Obama unexpectedly runs into Michelle on her birthday, in the basement of the White House. Jan. 17, 2012.
Image: Attendees of a Newt Gingrich rally at The Villages, Fla., Jan. 29, 2012.
Image: Newt and Callista Gingrich pose for photos during a rally at The Villages, Fla., Jan. 29, 2012.
Image: The Republican presidential primary in Florida. January 2012.
Image: Attendee of a Newt Gingrich rally at The Villages, Fla., Jan. 29, 2012.
Image:Mitt Romney speaking during an event for the Florida Primary. January 2012.
Image: A winter landscape outside of Boone, Iowa. Dec. 31, 2011.
Image: Romney meets with voters to discuss jobs and the economy at the Family Table Restaurant in Atlantic, Iowa. Jan.1, 2012.
Image: People begin to gather for a Town Hall Meeting with Newt Gingrich at a campaign stop in Walford, Iowa. Jan. 2, 2012.
Image: Young Romney supporters swarm to meet him for autographs at a campaign stop in Clive, Iowa. Jan. 2, 2012.
Image: A flag flies over the landscape of Walford, Iowa. Jan. 2, 2012.
Image: Mitt Romney and his wife Ann hold hands while campaigning in Concord, N.H. Dec. 23, 2011.
Image: Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich appears on a cable news program shortly after speaking at a campaign stop in Carroll, Iowa. Nov. 14, 2011.
Image: Shadows of reporters line the walls where Ron Paul spoke to veterans at a campaign stop at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. Dec. 28, 2011.
Image: Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum hunts with Representative Steve King, the prominent social conservative in Iowa. Dec. 26, 2011.
Image: Members of the press before a Mitt Romney campaign stop at Iowa American Water in Davenport. Nov. 7, 2011.
Image: Representative Michele Bachmann has a radio interview after formally announcing her bid for the Republican presidential nomination in Waterloo, Iowa, her childhood home. June 26, 2011.
Image: A scene from a Romney campaign event in Mason City, Iowa, just days before the Tuesday caucuses. Dec. 29, 2011.
Image: Mitt Romney announces that he is formally entering the race for the 2012 Republican U.S. presidential nomination in Stratham, N.H. June 2, 2011.
Image: Mitt Romney announces that he is formally entering the race for the 2012 Republican U.S. presidential nomination in Stratham, N.H. June 2, 2011.
U.S. President Barack Obama attends a campaign event in Hilliard, Ohio. Nov. 2, 2012.
Brooks Kraft—Corbis for TIME
1 of 81

The 2012 Presidential Election Year in Pictures

Nov 05, 2012

For years, TIME has created some of the most memorable campaign photography, from veteran political photographer Diana Walker's coverage of five administrations to Christopher Morris's eight years with President G.W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2008, the tradition continued with Callie Shell's intimate documentation of Barack Obama's campaign and eventual presidency.

This season, we looked for ways to continue the legacy of TIME's political coverage during the 2012 elections — to jump start the traditional approaches to covering campaigns that are moving further and faster from the familiar political cycles of the past decade. We looked to commission photographers with fresh perspectives who could re-envision the spectrum of American politics.

The candidates kicked off their campaigns in Iowa, so we sent Swedish photographer Lars Tunbjork, known for his work photographing the ironic and often-absurd landscapes of suburbia, to document the caucuses. His first time covering American politics, Tunbjork photographed the strangeness of these early events in the frozen Iowa landscape.

We continued by commissioning work by Ricardo Cases, Lauren Fleishman, Justin Maxon, Brendan Hoffman, Lauren Lancaster and Peter van Agtmael — selecting each of them for their different visions as photographers. And each returned with photographs that reflected a diverse visual vocabulary looking beyond the political staging.

We also encouraged veteran political photographers like Christopher Morris, Brooks Kraft, Callie Shell, Andrew Cutraro and Danny Wilcox Frazier to experiment with their coverage. While on assignment, all noted how different the political landscape felt visually since the last election. After Obama's first 100 days in office, the White House dramatically cut down on photographers' access to the President, instead releasing images by Pete Souza on their own Flickr page.

The Romney campaign also carefully controlled photographers' access this election, allowing very little intimacy with the candidate until the final weeks of the campaign, and then only rotating the traveling pool behind the scenes.

In the same way an undecided voter tries to see behind the political facade to judge the true character of the candidate they'll vote for, our photographers too worked relentlessly to break down the constructed photo-ops and reveal to our readers a sliver of their personality.

The media dissected the Republican candidates one by one before a frontrunner finally emerged. As Mitt Romney became the GOP frontrunner, we turned to photographers who could capture the candidate's personal side. Lauren Fleishman documented him (along with running-mate Paul Ryan) for weeks on end, through ten different states. Fleishman's photographs reflect the nuances of the conservative values shared by he and his wife, Ann.

As Obama started to step up his campaigning, we assigned Callie Shell to follow the President. Documenting his travels the week before the DNC, Shell showed readers a side to the President that had felt absent for a long time. A warm photo of Obama leaning against a high-school gymnasium's wall before a rally made the cover of our magazine at the DNC the following week.

We've attempted to present readers with photographs that document a very specific time in our country's history—a time where we face numerous worries and frustrations about America's political future. Although this election may reveal how radically divided we are as a nation, the future will be the ultimate judge of how important this time of recovery continues to be. We hope to provide the lasting record.

Paul Moakley is the Deputy Photo Editor at TIME.

TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.