Skip to main content

Capturing Campaign History In The Granite State

Photo caption: Mass. Gov. Michael Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, wave to supporters, Tuesday, ...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Mass. Gov. Michael Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, wave to supporters, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 1988 in Manchester after he won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire.

Photo caption: Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., reacts as 4-month...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., reacts as 4-month-old Dahlia Garnick begins to cry during a campaign stop at Morse Sporting Goods in Hillsborough, N.H.

Photo caption: Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. is swarm...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. is swarmed as she greets people on the street following a campaign visit to the River House Cafe in Milford, N.H., Saturday, Dec. 22, 2007.

Photo caption: With his campaign manager George Cleveland at his side, Jeff "Lobsterman" Cos...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

With his campaign manager George Cleveland at his side, Jeff "Lobsterman" Costa announces his candidacy for president Friday, April 2, 1999, in Concord, N.H.

Photo caption: Former New York Knicks basketball star, and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, sm...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Former New York Knicks basketball star, and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, smiles Tuesday, June 29, 1999, in Concord, N.H., as he is introduced as a Democratic presidential hopeful.

Photo caption: Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks during a ca...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks during a campaign stop in a parking lot in the mill section of Manchester, N.H., Friday, July 20, 2007.

Photo caption: In this Oct. 25, 2011, file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former ...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

In this Oct. 25, 2011, file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with his wife Callista, holds an oversize replica of an ax after signing a pledge to cut taxes, spending and government in Concord, N.H.

Photo caption: Gov. George W. Bush, R-Texas, blue shirt, below in boat, waves to supporters ...

Photo by Jim Cole Associated Press

Gov. George W. Bush, R-Texas, blue shirt, below in boat, waves to supporters as he arrives on Lake Winnipesaukeein Wolfboro, N.H., Saturday, July 31, 1999.

Photo caption: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, sha...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, shakes hands during a door-to-door campaign swing Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011, in Manchester, N.H.

Photo caption: Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Lamar Alexander, holds up a pair of high...

Photo by Jim Cole Associated Press

Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Lamar Alexander, holds up a pair of high top boots after a visit to a L.L. Bean store in Concord ,N.H., Wednesday February 7,1996. Alexander said he needs the boots to protect himself from all the negative advertisements that have been on local television stations against him.

Photo caption: Republican presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan throttles up a Harley-Davidson R...

Photo by Jim Cole Associated Press

Republican presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan throttles up a Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle in Manchester, N.H. Wednesday, July 5, 1995, as he seeks the nomination for president.

Photo caption: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, is interviewed after speaking at a training work...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, is interviewed after speaking at a training workshop for the New Hampshire state Republican Party in the auditorium at Concord High School Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Concord, N.H.

Photo caption: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, reaches out to s...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, reaches out to shake hands with Karl Bergeron of Northwood, N.H., Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in Concord, N.H.

Photo caption: Vice President Al Gore speaks to a group of women activists from the Concord,...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Vice President Al Gore speaks to a group of women activists from the Concord, N.H. area Thursday June 3, 1999 in Concord.

Photo caption: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry shakes hands with Bob Mitchell at the Peterboro ...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry shakes hands with Bob Mitchell at the Peterboro Diner, Friday, May 8, 2015, in Peterborough, N.H.

Photo caption: Gov. Bill Clinton shakes hands with the crowd as he arrives at a rally being ...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Gov. Bill Clinton shakes hands with the crowd as he arrives at a rally being held for him in Hartford, Conn., in March 1992.

Photo caption: Former Sen. George McGovern, right, shakes hands with a man while participati...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Former Sen. George McGovern, right, shakes hands with a man while participating in a fishing derby, Feb. 4, 1984, Meredith, N.H.

Photo caption: Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, center, and his wife, Annie Glenn, right, greet supp...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, center, and his wife, Annie Glenn, right, greet supporters at Glenn's campaign headquarters, Feb. 5, 1984, Keene, N.H.

Photo caption: Gov. Bill Clinton shakes hands with the crowd as he arrives at a rally being ...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Gov. Bill Clinton shakes hands with the crowd as he arrives at a rally being held for him in Hartford, Conn., in March 1992.

Photo caption: Vice President George Bush waves from the cockpit of a World War II B-17 bomb...

Photo by Jim Cole AP

Vice President George Bush waves from the cockpit of a World War II B-17 bomber at a quick campaign stop at Boire Field in Nashua, N.H. on Wednesday, July 15,1987.

Photo caption: Longtime Associated Press photographer Jim Cole has covered every New Hampshi...

Photo by Allegra Boverman NHPR

Longtime Associated Press photographer Jim Cole has covered every New Hampshire presidential primary since 1980.

Of the many New Hampshire journalists who have covered the state's presidential primary, few can match longtime Associated Press photographer Jim Cole, who has captured every New Hampshire primary since 1980.

Cole has a rule he follows when out on assignment: No matter how crowded the press gaggle gets, he never takes a picture while he's touching another photographer. The point is to force himself to think of a different approach to each shot.

Take, for instance, a campaign appearance by George H.W. Bush at Nashua Airport in 1988: All of the other photographers followed the then-vice president on board an airplane.

"I stayed outside, and with all the luck in the world, Bush stuck his head out the pilot's window and waved to everybody," said Cole.

The picture ended up as a two-page spread in Life magazine.

With 35 years of experience shooting pictures of politicians, that's hardly the only time Cole's counter-current strategy has gotten national attention for his photos.

"He's probably photographed every prominent politician who's ever come through New Hampshire," said Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who earlier served as the state's governor.

Cole's exploits on the job have made him a legend. On Election Night in 1996, he started processing his film in a makeshift darkroom at Pat Buchanan's headquarters, just as the candidate's staff locked off access to the space.

"We still had like a minute left in the developer — if you overdevelop you're going to ruin everything," said Cole. The AP was about to lose all of its film from the winner of the New Hampshire primary, and Cole had to think quickly.

"I got into the lock with my Swiss Army knife, opened the lock, got the door open and with about 15 to 30 seconds left got the film from the developer into the bleach," said Cole.

David Tirrell-Wysocki, a former colleague at the AP, recalls when former Vice President Walter Mondale, went fishing with a kid on the Merrimack River. He said most of the news pictures of the day showed Mondale and the child fishing alone on the banks of the Merrimack.

"Jim stood back and took a picture of the 15 or 20 photographers who were surrounding them in this supposedly peaceful scene, including one photographer who had gone out into the water and turned around and was shooting back," said Tirell-Wysocki. "They had the picture, but he had the scene."

New Hampshire journalists and politicians agree Cole's knack for capturing the whole scene has shown, perhaps better than any other photographer, the character of his home state and its role in the presidential process.

"He's got to put together a book of his best New Hampshire primary photographs," said former New Hampshire governor and White House chief of staff John H. Sununu. "That book alone would be a great bestseller."

But at 58 years old, Cole says the book on his career isn't closed yet.

Copyright 2015 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit http://nhpr.org/.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.