“I’m not there to have an opinion, I’m there to take photos,” says political photographer Evan Vucci. As a Washington-based photojournalist for the Associated Press, Vucci has spent the last 13 years in the political arena, doing his “absolute best to play it straight” in his coverage, he tells TIME.
He has spent the last year on the trail with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who faces the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Election Day. Despite his assignment to cover one of the most polarizing political figures to emerge as a presidential candidate, Vucci’s objective is to provide a fair and accurate first-hand depiction of what unfolds before him— and that balanced perspective, Vucci says, isn’t even the most difficult part of covering politics. “The hardest part about this job is every campaign cycle, every new president it becomes more and more controlled. They’re trying to limit your movements,” he explains. “It’s just more controlling and you just have to fight more [for access].”
The permeation of social media and first-person storytelling plays a large roll in this battle for access. Since the last election cycle, just four years ago, a discernible shift has taken place in the visual storytelling landscape. Professional media outlets are no longer the only avenue to disseminate a message. There’s now Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and myriad other popular platforms where politicians can reach enormous audiences with a customized and controlled message.“They have a way to put their message out there and they can bypass the press completely,” says Vucci.
The 39-year-old photographer says he is not criticizing politicians for doing so, but rather calls it a “fact of life,” one that forces photojournalists to work that much harder to deliver an unbiased, powerful message through the digital noise.
Vucci, for one, does just that. His images elevate the mundane to the unique, finding fresh moments in what can be a monotonous drudge of similar stages and settings.
In one stand-out photograph, Donald Trump jumps on a chair, corralling those around him. It was a rare, energized moment, he says. “I was like wow, this is just something I haven’t seen before. It really stood out. And they’re supportive of the guy, man he actually feeds off that. He feeds off the crowd enthusiasm, he really does.”
Evan Vucci is an Associated Press photographer based in Washington D.C.