From President Obama’s reelection and Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath to a deadly earthquake in Guatemala and a train cemetery in Bolivia, TIME presents the best photographs of the week.
From Herman Cains cowboy hattoStephen Colberts super-PAC fun pack to binders, Big Bird and bayonets, objects became the visual sound bites of the 2012 election. Perhaps because there was a dearth of ideas, politics watchers and Internet mememakers seemed to focus more on things than in any previous campaign. So we thought it only appropriate to create our version of the BBCBritish Museum series A History of the World in 100 Objects to tell the story of the election. The pages that follow show the real thing: actual pieces of history, often given to us by the candidates themselves. Rick Perry lent us his Stars-and-Stripes cowboy boots, Jon Huntsman his beat-up briefcase, Rick Santorum his dog-eared pocket Constitution. SEO Experts search engine marketing . Michele Bachmann sent the suit she wore on the day she won the Iowa straw poll. Saturday Night Live lent us the dentures Jason Sudeikis wears to flash Joe Bidens smile. dog clothes . The president of an Ohio charity sent us a soup pot that Paul Ryan cleanedor recleanedduring an impromptu drop-by. Congressman Darrell Issa lent us the gavel he used during the congressional hearing about security in Libya. And the Republican National Committee let us photograph the empty chair that famously shared the stage with Clint Eastwood.
Richard Stengel is the managing editor of TIME.
Photographer Callie Shell has documented Barack Obama for more than eight years. This week, her pictures of the President campaigning in New Hampshire are featured in TIME’s special Democratic Convention Issue. The photojournalist began documenting Obama first as a junior Senator, then throughout his campaign and has continued through his first term in office.
Shell’s most recent photographs show a confident President, relaxed and composed, before making speeches at campaign stops throughout New Hampshire. “You spend a lot of time as President waiting for people to introduce you,” she tells TIME, “so that’s always the best time to be around him.”
Although Shell’s eight years of experience with the President help her know what to expect, she still feels nervous about her responsibility documenting the leader of the free world. Looking for different angles that show the Obama she witnesses firsthand is a constant challengelike her photograph of Obama taking a quiet moment alone before hopping onstage in Rochester on August 18 (slide #5).
And sometimes during these fleeting moments of calm, Obama and Shell chat about their childrenboth are parents of children the same age.
Shell says she’s always looking for ways to show things from both the perspective of Obama and the crowds that come out to meet him. “It helps when there’s a really cute kid with really big eyes peeking over [a barricade],” she says of one of her photos shot last week (slide #13).
“I think its so hard to remember who that person is on the podiumthat these politicians are real people,” she says.
Even though Shell has photographed many different politicians through the years, she understands that making photographs of the President and other decision-makers is reliant on their trust. “You aren’t here as a Republican or Democrat or an Independentyou’re just here to show people what goes on when they’re not standing at the podium.”
Election Day is going to come quicker than you know.
Long the Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney has been gradually building momentum towards Nov. 6 since clinching the party nomination on May 29. Now, in the throes of virtually non-stop tours around the U.S. with running mate Paul Ryan, Romney moves to the next stage of his campaign next Monday at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Photographer Lauren Fleishman has watched Romney’s campaign evolve since she first began covering the former Massachusetts governor for TIME. Traveling with him through more than ten states since March, Fleishman became aware of how the Romney-Ryan team began to pull out the stops as the Republican National Convention loomed closer on the horizon.
This past week, as the Romney motorcade raced through Boston, New Orleans and Long Island, N.Y., TIME was granted some rare moments of behind-the-scenes access, as Fleishman tagged along with him at work on the campaign plane, and at a private luncheon with supporters.
(See more: Paul Ryan’s Life and Career in Photos)
The Romney camp, eager to reach crucial members of their party before the 2012 convention, had ratcheted up their game. Campaign events seemed grander; crowds swelled in front of more-energized-than-ever candidates. And, in as controlled an environment as the modern political campaign allows, Romney exuded a new spirit—that of Paul Ryan.
“Now that he has a running mate, the crowd gets really excited—it feels like almost twice the energy,” Fleishman said.
Related: The Rich History of Mitt Romney