With 170 years of history, and a record 31 Pulitzer Prizes for photography, no news organization has covered American politics and presidential campaigns like The Associated Press.
This fall, in conjunction with the 2016 Vice Presidential Debate, the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts in Virginia and the AP have teamed up to debut an exhibition showcasing historic and revealing images captured by the AP from presidential campaigns dating to the early 20th century.
"Citizens and Leaders: A Century of Iconic Presidential Campaign Photography by The Associated Press" will run from Sept. 9 through Oct. 16, serving as an attraction for visitors around the Oct. 4 Vice Presidential Debate, which will take place at Longwood University, in Farmville, Virginia. On the day of the debate, AP Vice President and Director of Photography Santiago Lyon will lead a lunchtime conversation at the museum about the exhibition, the impact of AP's presidential campaign coverage and coverage of the 2016 election. The exhibition and discussion will be free and open to the public.
Photos in the exhibit are drawn from the elections of 1916 through 2016. They explore the human dimension of the process by which Americans choose their president. Even as that process has become lengthier, more complex and increasingly conducted over television and now social media, its defining moments remain distinctly personal, as candidates encounter and make their case to voters face to face.
"Compelling political photography remains as important as in decades past, with still images being delivered faster and reaching more people today than ever before," said Lyon, whose AP staffers chronicle the current campaign in hundreds of photos each week that go out to thousands of newspapers, websites and other digital outlets worldwide.
"As the presidential campaign arrives on Longwood’s campus this fall, this exhibit will provide a never-before-seen way to explore what has changed – and stayed the same – about this process over a century, as captured by the AP’s unrivaled roster of photojournalists," said LCVA Executive Director Rachel Ivers. "Some of these images are famous, others forgotten, but collectively they paint a fascinating, thought-provoking portrait of American democracy in action."
The exhibition's title, "Citizens and Leaders," is a nod both to the subject matter – most of the photos capture personal encounters between citizens and those who aspire to lead them – and Longwood's distinctive mission to shape "citizen leaders" who are prepared to make positive contributions to society. That mission will be front and center as Longwood hosts the lone Vice Presidential Debate of the 2016 campaign, sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. As many as 3,000 media personnel are expected to attend.
The "Citizens and Leaders" exhibit was curated by AP Special Projects Manager Chuck Zoeller in connection with Ivers and Justin Pope, chief of staff at Longwood and previously an AP national reporter.
The opening reception for "Citizens and Leaders" will take place on Friday, Sept. 9, from 5 to 8 p.m. The exhibition will remain on display through Oct. 16, 2016.