Primary Focus: Capturing the Candidates on Their Upper Valley Swing Since 1952

Sunday, February 07, 2016
Long before television live shots and satellite trucks, before campaign trackers and YouTube posts, before smartphones and selfies, still photographers were the main source of images from the campaign trail.

As it turns out, the Valley News was founded in 1952, the same year the New Hampshire primary began playing a national role in nominating a president.

Photographers from the newspaper have been there to help tell the story for every election cycle ever since. Valley News Photo Editor Geoff Hansen, who has been with the newspaper for 26 years, dug into our archives to find some of the best of their work.

The photographers captured candidates flying into Lebanon Airport, being buttonholed by voters in downtown Claremont and speaking in classic New England buildings that date to the 19th century.

Some of the names might be unfamiliar to younger voters today, but the likes of Eugene McCarthy, Ed Muskie, Jack Kemp and Pat Robertson once were headline names who played important political roles in their time.

As the images make clear, some traditions have changed. Flannel-checked jackets have largely been replaced by fleece. Candidates rarely crowd into a farmhouse parlor, surrounded by their host’s neighbors, to talk about their bid. Now, “town hall” forums in local restaurants are needed to accommodate the media scrum and larger crowds drawn in by the Internet and social media.

But some things haven’t changed. Face-to-face contact still matters to New Hampshire voters. And candidates have always known how to play to the cameras, as the image of Nelson “Rocky” Rockefeller astride a snowmobile makes clear.

Enjoy the history captured on this page, and in the dozens of campaign photographs from the past 50 years at

Unlike a video, the images allow you into the moment, and let you think about it. — John P. Gregg

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