A tree with exposed roots remains on the shoreline in St. George Island, Florida.

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A tree with exposed roots remains on the shoreline in St. George Island, Florida.
Photograph by David Guttenfelder, National Geographic

Picturing the Issues Behind the Election in Florida

We often cover wild animals at National Geographic. Now our photographer David Guttenfelder turns his lens on political animals in Florida.

National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder spent two weeks on a road trip through the Sunshine State traveling from Miami to the panhandle to capture a unique cultural portrait of Florida. He was there for the leadup to the Democratic and Republican primaries and also captured the issues that matter to Americans most.

Guttenfelder’s signature style was made famous through his work in North Korea. Now he is meandering through major cities, rural areas, retirement communities, and more, finding moments emblematic of election issues being debated in Florida and across the country.

“I tried to take what I learned and heard at the political rallies and in the debates and take signs from that,” said Guttenfelder. “Rather than trying to do deep documentary [stories], I am trying to make more symbolic pictures to give a creative forum for people to talk about [the issues].”

Guttenfelder, an American who has spent the past 20 years of his career photographing stories abroad, considers himself a relatively inexperienced photographer in his own country. “My whole adult life I’ve been watching America on TV like the rest of the world,” he said. “I’ve been watching this political story on TV like everybody else and I feel like I’ve been thrust into the middle of this circus that doesn’t look real to people and doesn’t look real to me at all.”

Though he may feel like an outsider in his own country, his journalistic approach in Florida remains the same as with any story he photographs. “I was gone for 20 years exploring the whole world with my cameras and looking at America like it was a foreign country ... and suddenly I’m here and this is my country,” he said. “I wanted to check out the elections like I wanted to check out any far away and exotic culture. As strange as it is, it’s really important right now.”

Guttenfelder provided daily coverage on social media. You can view his coverage on the @natgeophotos Twitter account, on his own Instagram account (@dguttenfelder), and the @natgeo Instagram account.

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