‘Citizens and Leaders’ exhibit opens Friday

Published 2:31 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2016

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 (AP).

This fall, in conjunction with the 2016 vice presidential debate, the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts (LCVA) 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 begin Friday and run through Oct. 16, serving as an attraction for visitors around the Oct. 4 debate, which will take place at Longwood University. On the day of the debate, AP Vice President and Director of Photography Santiago Lyon will lead a lunchtime conversation at the LCVA about the exhibition, the impact of AP’s presidential campaign coverage and coverage of the 2016 election.

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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 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,” LCVA Executive Director Rachel Ivers said. “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, with as many as 3,000 media personnel expected to attend.

AP Special Projects Manager Chuck Zoeller curated The “Citizens and Leaders” exhibit in connection with Ivers and Justin Pope, chief of staff at Longwood and a previous AP national reporter. Haley Auto Mall is sponsoring the exhibition.

The opening reception for “Citizens and Leaders” will take place on Friday from 5-8 p.m. Lyon will lead a lunchtime conversation at noon on Oct. 4, the day of the vice presidential debate.