Notes From the Campaign Trail with Paul Ryan

Peter Bohler for TIME
Peter Bohler for TIME
Paul Ryan and his wife exit their plane in Colombus, Ohio. Sept. 29, 2012.

Photographer Peter Bohler reflects on his first time out on the campaign trail with Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan.

Photographing a candidate is a constant struggle for access, between the Secret Service and the Campaign Press Office, there were a myriad of unspoken rules that I was constantly trying to understand and follow. Often, I would set up for a great shot, only to be pulled away just as Congressman Ryan got close enough to photograph. Rarely would I be given a straight answer, or told what to expect.

Once I was ‘in the bubble’ as part of the traveling press, life on the road was seamless. We were shepherded swiftly from bus to tarmac to airplane and back again, with meals provided at every juncture. The photography would have been straightforward, had I been content to settle for the situations and angles that the press office arranged for us. Ryan’s speeches became routine, and his words would echo in my ears just before he said them. I learned to anticipate the resolute pursing of his lips and the humble look downward that would precede an impassioned defense of his American ideals.

On the last day of the shoot, the Campaign Press Contact grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away from the media pack and onto the Campaign bus. I hadn’t been told when I might get access to the bus, but I knew that if it happened it would happen suddenly, and I was ready. On the bus I was in a different world — it was the calm in the eye of the storm. Though we were in the center of the motorcade, it was easy to forget about the scores of police cars, the Secret Service, and the swarm of media that surrounded us.

The Ryan’s were surrounded by their family and friends, and laughed and talked easily. 7-year-old Sam crawled up and down the aisle of the bus — his favorite pass time. Soon Paul Ryan and I were talking about climbing mountains in Colorado. He was friendly, warm, curious and accommodating. No matter what you think of his politics, he possesses a compelling magnetism.

Peter Bohler is a Los Angeles-based documentary photographer and a recent contributor to TIME.

 

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