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U.S. politics: Up close and personal

Christopher Anderson spent much of 2012 on the campaign trail, snapping photos of U.S. politicians as they traveled the country ahead of Election Day.

From massive conventions, intimate sit-downs with candidates and all the events in between, he amassed quite a bit of material for New York magazine, for which he is a photographer in residence.

“In my mind, it was kind of like creating this family album of the American political scene,” Anderson said.

Much of this material can also be found in “Stump,” a recently published book that includes an essay from John Heilemann, the New York magazine writer who co-wrote the book “Game Change” in 2010.

With extreme close-ups of political figures, stripped of all surroundings, Anderson aims to break through the staged images that are commonly seen when people run for office.

“I feel as a documentarian it's my kind of obligation to sort of find my way around the stage-managed picture. To get beyond the picture that they want me to take,” Anderson said. “Not to make people look bad, but to somehow penetrate the theater that they're presenting.”

The portraits show the faces of candidates — as well as their family members and even some of their supporters — in stunning detail. Every wrinkle, skin blemish and hair is there to see as Anderson tries to get to the core of each person’s true self.

“I wanted it to feel uncomfortably intimate,” he said. “I wanted it to be close in proximity — so close that it’s almost like a metaphorical X-ray of the political scene.”

Anderson, whose previous work has been published in magazines such as National Geographic, Esquire and Vanity Fair, has spent much of his career focusing on conflict. But he said he considers political America to be a directly linked extension of that subject matter.

Taking photos of President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, was particularly memorable.

“They're both kind of these fascinating, compelling characters for very different reasons,” Anderson said.

He also spent a few days on Air Force Two with Vice President Joe Biden.

“Regardless of your politics, he's a funny guy and he's a good time to hang out with. ... You'd have to be pretty hardcore partisan to just not like the guy in person, because he's a fun guy,” Anderson said.

Covering candidates from both sides of the aisle and from different parts of the country was an eye-opening experience for Anderson.

“Some people just do have this charisma on both the right and the left. And some people have whatever the opposite of what that charisma is on both the right and the left,” he said. “The different ways that they have to be stage-managed in order to make them look presentable and sympathetic candidates is interesting.”

- Kyle Almond, CNN