For photographer M. Scott Brauer, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore’s campaign was a welcome relief to the circus that can be the campaign trail during a presidential election.
While the odds are against Gilmore—a long-shot Republican candidate who managed to capture 133 votes in the New Hampshire primary—Brauer says the campaign has a sense of perseverance that keeps him in the race.
“He is so optimistic,” says Brauer. “He seemed to really enjoy doing the campaign stuff. I’ve photographed all of the candidates, starting in July of last year, and some of the candidates seem to just kind of put up with some of the nitty gritty of doing campaigns, you know shaking hands and all that—Jim Gilmore, that was his element and he enjoys it.”
The images Brauer captured during the day he spent campaigning with Gilmore in Manchester, N.H. highlight the oddity of Gilmore’s campaign, which does not attract the mega-crowds of opponents like Republican front-runner Donald Trump. Brauer decided to make use of heavy flash when taking pictures, much like old-school film cameras, giving the pictures a “really strange” look. Brauer chose this particular approach to highlight the strangeness of the campaign itself. “It doesn’t look like the world that you see when you walk out down the street and that’s what I kind of like about it, because politics is so far removed from ordinary life anyway,” he says.
Even in the face of adversity, Brauer says that Gilmore remains optimistic and greets voters with a sense of enthusiasm. Brauer noted how Gilmore handles the rigors of the campaign, meeting with constituents into the late hours of the night only to be up and at it early in the morning.
“Even though he’s got no traction, he ran it like a normal campaign,” says Brauer. “It was dogged determination to campaign the way that a campaign should be done–it was just fascinating to see.”
After New Hampshire, Gilmore heads to South Carolina, even after some more popular opponents dropped out of the race Wednesday—namely New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
M. Scott Brauer is an American photographer born in Germany and based in Boston.
Paul Moakley, who edited this photo essay, is TIME’s deputy director of photography.
Daniel White is a writer for TIME. He is based in Washington.