The view from inside the 2016 presidential campaign

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive
Athens: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visits Court Street Diner with Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown in Athens on May 3, 2016.

My job as a photojournalist has led me to some interesting places. I've tiptoed around drug dens covering the heroin epidemic in our region, entered countless homes to document intimate family moments from California to Vermont and, in 2016, often had a front row seat to the presidential election.

I had the opportunity to cover the campaigns of every major candidate multiple times for publications likeThe New York Times andThe Washington Post. Freelancing as a photographer in a swing state like Ohio kept me busy covering rallies, meeting different types of voters and capturing regions as they teetered one way or another on the political scale.

At the rallies I covered, I was often one of the younger photographers capturing the event, and sometimes the only woman. Being in a male-dominated field, I felt even more pressure to prove I could do any assignment a man could do, whether that was carrying heavy equipment, competing for space on the risers or the buffer and standing up for myself when I needed to. Luckily, most of the other seasoned photographers covering these events had my back and helped each other when they could in the madness of the moment.

Each candidate's rallies were different and similar all at once. Some gave you access to wander the venue and interact with supporters, and others kept all the journalists in a small pen and encouraged the thousands of people in the crowd to boo and heckle the media. It was an interesting experience to have a perfectly pleasant conversation while photographing someone before the event began, and then spot them in the crowd yelling at the "crooked media." My colleagues and I have been called liars and flicked off, and then asked if we could email them some pictures we took.

While working the events, I got so focused on doing my job that I often forgot I was only a few feet away from the most talked-about people in the world, one of whom would be elected as president. If you stepped too close, or you were in a place you weren't supposed to be, Secret Service would correct your mistake immediately. But the goal was always the same: to take a picture that stands out from the millions of political shots taken each election cycle. I would look for any photo that showed the candidate in a new light, such as letting their guard down for a split second, as well as capturing the people who so passionately supported them.

The people in the crowd were often more interesting than the candidates themselves. The collective behavior of people feeding off one another at these events, forming bonds over their common interests and genuinely believing in their cause and their candidate was fascinating to watch. Covering each candidate in a short amount of time, I learned that, more than anything, everyone just wanted their voices to be heard.