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The Campaign: The Art of Political Photo Staging
Friday, August 19th, 2011

For politicians, manufacturing the visual message is just part of the game.

It was after the first televised presidential debate between Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon, that politicians got the message: images matter.

Those who listened to the debates on the radio tended to think that the candidates were evenly matched. But those who watched the televised debates overwhelmingly saw Kennedy as the winner.

Nixon's refusal to wear makeup coupled with his tired appearance led many to call into question his health. And it was these images that political analysts consider the turning point in the election. As you know, the rest is history.

Since then, politicians have learned the lesson. Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, President Barack Obama, and the rest of the politicians lining up to take part in the 2012 elections are all now acutely aware of the cameras.

As this election season begins to heat up, so do the attempts by politicians to craft their images. Eat the local food, kiss the baby, pin up an American flag, it's all become an essential part of the game.

And photographers have to navigate those tricky waters as they move from one staged press event to the next, where they are often corralled into special areas designed to force them into taking a certain shot.

And sometimes despite these calculated efforts, politicians make mistakes.

Here are some of the more arresting images that are helping to sway our opinions, and our votes.

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Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin greets visitors at the Iowa State Fair August 12, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa. Although Palin has not declared an intention to run for president, she joined most of the declared Republican presidential hopefuls who visited the fair ahead of Iowa Straw Poll.

(Scott Olson - AFP/Getty Images)
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Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty speaks in the Strong America Now tent at Iowa State University August 13, 2011 in Ames, Iowa. Pawlenty was the first presidential hopeful to end his campaign following a weak performance in the Iowa Straw Poll.

(Chip Somodevilla - AFP/Getty Images)
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Republican presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann holds three-month-old Reece Benjamin while talking to her parents during a rally at a GOP picnic August 9, 2011 in Humboldt, Iowa.

(Chip Somodevilla - AFP/Getty Images)
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Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann greets her supporters after winning the Iowa Straw Poll on the campus of Iowa State University August 13, 2011 in Ames, Iowa.

(Chip Somodevilla - AFP/Getty Images)
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Surrounded by media, Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann speaks to supporters following her victory in the Iowa Straw Poll at Iowa State University August 13, 2011 in Ames, Iowa.

(Scott Olson - AFP/Getty Images)
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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a town hall style meeting at the Coutnry Corner in Alpha, Illinois, August 17, 2011, during the final day of his three-day bus tour in the Midwest centering on ways to grow the economy.

(JIM WATSON - AFP/Getty Images)
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Minnesota Congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann puts mustard on a corn dog at the Iowa State Fair August 12, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.

(Scott Olson - AFP/Getty Images)
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Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry poses with a cutout of SGT James Benal of the Nebraska National Guard at the Iowa State Fair August 15, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.

(Scott Olson - AFP/Getty Images)
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U.S. President Barack Obama, center, talks with coach Tim Dougherty at the Galesburg High School football team practice during a surprise visit in Galesburg, Illinois, on August 16, 2011.

(JIM WATSON - AFP/Getty Images)
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Caleb Schierkolk, 11, of Shenandoah, Iowa, shows off where former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin signed his forehead at the Iowa State Fair August 12, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.

(Chip Somodevilla - AFP/Getty Images)
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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Sen. Chuck Grassley flip pork chops at the Iowa Pork Producers Association pavallion at the Iowa State Fair August 11, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.

(Chip Somodevilla - AFP/Getty Images)
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Volunteers for Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann pray while waiting for the resluts of the Iowa Straw Poll outside the Hilton Coliseum at Iowa State University August 13, 2011 in Ames, Iowa.

(Chip Somodevilla - AFP/Getty Images)
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President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall style meeting at the Seed Savers Exchange on August 15, 2011 in Decorah, Iowa.

(Joe Raedle - AFP/Getty Images)
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Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaks with the media after visiting the Brewery Bar IV on June 20, 2011 in Aurora, Colorado.

(John Moore - AFP/Getty Images)
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US President Barack Obama throws popcorn to the press as he walks out of Kernel Cody's Popcorn Shoppe in LeClaire, Iowa, August 16, 2011.

(JIM WATSON - AFP/Getty Images)
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Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich talks to voters from the Des Moines Register's Soapbox during the second day of the Iowa State Fair August 12, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.

(Chip Somodevilla - AFP/Getty Images)
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U.S. President Barack Obama arrives to speak at a town hall style meeting at Country Corner Farm Market on August 17, 2011 in Alpha, Illinois.

(Joe Raedle - AFP/Getty Images)
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Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry signs a campaign poster at the Iowa State Fair August 15, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.

(Chip Somodevilla - AFP/Getty Images)
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Fairgoers over the age of 18 are invited to drop one piece of corn into one of 14 jars with photos of their favorite Republican presidential candidate during the second day of the Iowa State Fair August 12, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.

(Chip Somodevilla - AFP/Getty Images)
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Abraham Lincoln presenter Lance Mack of Marion, Iowa, heads for the stage during the Blackhawk County Republican annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Electric Park Ballroom August 14, 2011 in Waterloo, Iowa.

(Chip Somodevilla - AFP/Getty Images)
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