My latest book, Americans, is the second in a series about America, even though I had no idea it would become a series when my first book, My America, was released in April 2006. That book examined Republican nationalism in the country during George W. Bush’s two terms as president. But in Americans, I’ve taken real pains to make sure there’s no political photography. There aren’t any portraits of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, and no pictures of rally signs. Instead, I sought to make an anthropological study of America—not for this week, or for this past election cycle—but a body of work that future generations could look back on to get a sense of the country’s mood.
What I found, in the eight-year period during which these photographs were made, is an America severely divided. With two long-running wars and an economy slow to recover, there is a real sense that the country is in a depressed state. Traveling across America in several road trips, I found that the mood among citizens wasn’t upbeat or lively; people are really polarized in their political positions, yet everyone is concerned about the economy and what that means for the welfare of their families.
The book contains only a handful of formal portraits. The rest is reportage—pictures taken when people were alone, pensive in thought. I looked for these moments to convey this feeling of loss and depression that I felt across the nation.
When you are in the bubble, it’s easy to forget what a strange sight the campaign entourage is and how disruptive it can be.
The motorcades for President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can sometimes be as long as 20 cars—including vans and buses carrying staff and reporters. And that doesn’t even include the local security detail, which in Florida last weekend included almost 30 motorcycle cops alone for the Romney motorcade. Anywhere the candidates go, there are major street closures and horrible traffic gridlock—and, almost always, people out of their cars trying to figure out what exactly is going on.
Justin Sullivan, a Getty Images photographer covering Romney, has been taking some great photos this week documenting people reacting to the motorcade as we’ve traveled across the country. I’ve posted some of my favorites above, but you can see all of his images on the Getty Images site.