PHOTOS: Ayanna Pressley On The Campaign Trail : The Picture Show WGBH's Meredith Nierman shares what it was like to document the day with the Boston city councilor a few days before she upset 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano in the Democratic primary.
NPR logo 'Nothing Was Off Limits': Intimate Photos From Ayanna Pressley's Campaign

'Nothing Was Off Limits': Intimate Photos From Ayanna Pressley's Campaign

Ayanna Pressley begins her day at Jubilee Christian Church on Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan, where a couple of hundred seniors have gathered ahead of the annual District B-3 Community Harbor Cruise, sponsored by the Boston Police Department. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Ayanna Pressley begins her day at Jubilee Christian Church on Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan, where a couple of hundred seniors have gathered ahead of the annual District B-3 Community Harbor Cruise, sponsored by the Boston Police Department.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

On Sept. 4, Boston Citywide Councilor Ayanna Pressley unseated 10-term congressman Michael Capuano. She is poised to be the first African-American woman to represent the state of Massachusetts in Congress, as there is no Republican on the November ballot in her district.

Last week, WGBH News' Director of Photography Meredith Nierman spent the day with the candidate and discussed what she encountered.

In the car headed to her next event, Pressley pulls an old silver dollar out of her pocket. "A gentleman just gave this to me and told me it brought him a lot of luck in his life and that he wanted to pass it on to me in the final stretch of our campaign," she said. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

In the car headed to her next event, Pressley pulls an old silver dollar out of her pocket. "A gentleman just gave this to me and told me it brought him a lot of luck in his life and that he wanted to pass it on to me in the final stretch of our campaign," she said.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Nonstop campaigning means most meals are eaten quickly. Pressley and campaign manager Sarah Groh make a quick stop for coffee while en route to her next event in Brighton. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Nonstop campaigning means most meals are eaten quickly. Pressley and campaign manager Sarah Groh make a quick stop for coffee while en route to her next event in Brighton.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

What made you decide to do this project?

We knew we wanted to focus on Pressley and Capuano given the very real and symbolic importance of the race on both a local and national level, but I wanted us to go beyond typical campaign coverage photos to do something more focused, deeper and, most of all, intimate.

That would require a closer level of access than campaigns normally afford to press, but it wasn't a very hard sell, surprisingly. After explaining what we needed to Pressley's campaign manager, Sarah Groh — a full day from start to finish, with as much access to everything as possible — Groh seemed to pause. I think I then simply said, "OK, so this is what it is... She's a candidate, but she's also a human. We want to try to show more of the human." And they got it.

Pressley greets a small group of residents at Leventhal House, a senior living center in Brighton. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Pressley greets a small group of residents at Leventhal House, a senior living center in Brighton.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Pressley talks to Helen Zelnick, who tells Pressley she previously has voted for Rep. Michael Capuano and feels seniority matters a lot. "Even if the starting point for a conversation is that they've voted for the congressman before, I want to hear from them about what's on their mind," Pressley says. At the end of their talk, Zelnick tells Pressley that she now has a lot more to consider. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Pressley talks to Helen Zelnick, who tells Pressley she previously has voted for Rep. Michael Capuano and feels seniority matters a lot. "Even if the starting point for a conversation is that they've voted for the congressman before, I want to hear from them about what's on their mind," Pressley says. At the end of their talk, Zelnick tells Pressley that she now has a lot more to consider.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Rushing off to her next event, Pressley runs her hand along a flower bed in front of Leventhal House. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Rushing off to her next event, Pressley runs her hand along a flower bed in front of Leventhal House.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

What kind of access did you have?

Other than her home, I had full access to everything from morning until night. This meant I was in the back seat of Groh's car as she and Pressley traveled from event to event. I was in the room as Pressley spoke to senior citizens, in the studio as she was interviewed on TV, in the break area at campaign headquarters as she and her team celebrated a milestone, and next to her as she talked with her husband at the end of the day.

Nothing was off-limits, really, though I took care to not photograph any potentially confidential material like campaign documents or messages visible on her phone screen.

Throughout the day, Groh's car serves as shared office space, as she and Pressley attend to emails, hold conference calls and prep ahead of meetings and events. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Throughout the day, Groh's car serves as shared office space, as she and Pressley attend to emails, hold conference calls and prep ahead of meetings and events.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Throughout the day, Pressley reads the news and checks email and social media. Back in the car, Pressley and Groh discuss how to respond to a recent article in a local paper. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Throughout the day, Pressley reads the news and checks email and social media. Back in the car, Pressley and Groh discuss how to respond to a recent article in a local paper.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

The car pulls over on Commonwealth Avenue a few minutes ahead of Pressley's next event — a TV interview with the Boston Neighborhood Network (BNN) — so that Pressley can pull together a new outfit. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

The car pulls over on Commonwealth Avenue a few minutes ahead of Pressley's next event — a TV interview with the Boston Neighborhood Network (BNN) — so that Pressley can pull together a new outfit.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

What stuck with you the most?

How much time she spent with people even when she knew that they wouldn't or couldn't vote for her. Whether she was lingering for 15 minutes with the elderly woman at Leventhal House in Brighton who told her she was an ardent Capuano supporter, or helping a lost, out-of-state and therefore nonvoting college student find her way to the student union, she seemed to offer the same amount of time to everyone.

On the elevator up to the TV studio, Pressley has a rare moment of quiet. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

On the elevator up to the TV studio, Pressley has a rare moment of quiet.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

After the interview, Pressley was asked about the role of identity politics in the race. Her reply, which she has often repeated on the campaign trail, is that it's a charge that only seems to be lobbed at women and people of color. "It's right out of the GOP handbook," she said. "Yes, I am black and a woman, and unapologetically proud to be both. But that is not the totality of my identity." Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

After the interview, Pressley was asked about the role of identity politics in the race. Her reply, which she has often repeated on the campaign trail, is that it's a charge that only seems to be lobbed at women and people of color. "It's right out of the GOP handbook," she said. "Yes, I am black and a woman, and unapologetically proud to be both. But that is not the totality of my identity."

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Back on Commonwealth Avenue, New Jersey resident and incoming Boston University freshman Mediha Hussain randomly stops Pressley to ask if she knows how to find the student union. Pressley, who also attended BU, shows her the way. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Back on Commonwealth Avenue, New Jersey resident and incoming Boston University freshman Mediha Hussain randomly stops Pressley to ask if she knows how to find the student union. Pressley, who also attended BU, shows her the way.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Despite arriving 20 minutes early to her next event at the Huntington Theatre, there are no rests. Pressley uses the time to walk down to Northeastern University to meet students before she and Groh rush back toward the theater. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Despite arriving 20 minutes early to her next event at the Huntington Theatre, there are no rests. Pressley uses the time to walk down to Northeastern University to meet students before she and Groh rush back toward the theater.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

What do you hope resonates most with people?

My hope is that this essay is not only about the facts of the day, where Pressley went and what she did, but also about the feelings of the day — hers, theirs and, in some way, even mine.

Meredith Nierman is the director of photography at member station WGBH. Follow her work on instagram @meredithniermanphoto.

It's evening, and Pressley returns to campaign headquarters to meet with a group of trauma survivors and their supporters ahead of them heading out to canvass for her. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

It's evening, and Pressley returns to campaign headquarters to meet with a group of trauma survivors and their supporters ahead of them heading out to canvass for her.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

As the day winds down, Pressley sits outside with her husband, Conan Harris, and Alfreada Harris, campaign volunteers and longtime supporters. Meredith Nierman/WGBH hide caption

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

As the day winds down, Pressley sits outside with her husband, Conan Harris, and Alfreada Harris, campaign volunteers and longtime supporters.

Meredith Nierman/WGBH

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