Capturing Campaign History In The Granite State : It's All Politics Associated Press photographer Jim Cole has covered every New Hampshire presidential primary since 1980. Now he's preparing for the 2016 primary.
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Capturing Campaign History In The Granite State

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Capturing Campaign History In The Granite State

Capturing Campaign History In The Granite State

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Of all the New Hampshire journalists who've photographed the state's presidential primary, few can match Jim Cole. The longtime Associated Press photographer has covered every New Hampshire primary since 1980. Brady Carlson of New Hampshire Public Radio spent some time on the campaign trail with Jim Cole and has this report.

BRADY CARLSON, BYLINE: Jim Cole has a rule he follows when out on assignment. No matter how crowded the press gaggle gets, he never takes a picture while he's touching another photographer. The point is to force him to think of a different approach to each shot. Take, for instance, a campaign appearance by George H.W. Bush at Nashua Airport in 1988.

JIM COLE: And all the photographers got on board the plane with him, and they walked through the back end of the plane into the cockpit area. I stayed outside, and with all the luck in the world, Bush stuck his head out the pilot's window and waved to everybody.

CARLSON: The picture ended up as a double spread in Life magazine. With 35 years' experience shooting pictures of politicians under Cole's belt, it's hardly the only time this counter-current strategy has gotten national attention for his photos. As U.S. Sen. and former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen puts it...

JEANNE SHAHEEN: He's probably photographed every prominent politician who's ever come through New Hampshire.

CARLSON: Cole's exploits on the job have made him a legend. In 1996, he started processing his film in a makeshift darkroom at Pat Buchanan's election night headquarters, just as Buchanan's staff locked off access to the space.

COLE: We still had, like, a minute left in the developer, but not much longer. If you overdevelop, you're going to ruin everything.

CARLSON: The AP was about to lose all of its film for the winner of the New Hampshire primary. Cole had to think quickly.

COLE: I got into the lock with my Swiss Army knife, opened the lock and got the door open. And with about 15 to 30 seconds left, got the film from the developer into the bleach.

CARLSON: But Cole, the personality, wouldn't be nearly as important if Cole, the photographer, wasn't any good. David Tirrell-Wysocki worked with Cole for decades at the Associated Press. He recalls Walter Mondale, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1984, went fishing with a kid on the Merrimack River.

DAVID TIRRELL-WYSOCKI: Most of the news pictures of that day showed the vice president and this person fishing alone on the banks of the Merrimack. Well, Jim stood back and took a picture of the 15 or 20 photographers who were surrounding them in this supposedly peaceful scene, including one photographer who had gone out into the water and turned around and was shooting back. They had the picture, but he had the scene.

CARLSON: New Hampshire journalists and politicians agree Cole's knack for capturing the whole scene has shown, perhaps better than any other photographer, the character of his home state and its role in the presidential process. Former New Hampshire Gov. and White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu even has an idea for the photographer.

JOHN SUNUNU: He's got to put together a book of his best New Hampshire primary photographs. That book alone would be a great best-seller.

CARLSON: At 58 years old, Cole says the book on his career isn't closed yet. For NPR News, I'm Brady Carlson in Concord, N.H.


SPOON: (Singing) I turn my camera on. I cut my fingers on the way, on the way, on the way. I feel me slipping away. I wipe my feelings off. You made me untouchable for life. Oh yeah, and you wasn't polite.

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