Washington Post staff photographer Matt McClain often finds himself photographing some of the biggest players in politics. Earlier this year, he was in Trump Tower in New York making portraits of President Trump, and he photographed the high-profile James B. Comey testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. But a recent assignment to a rural county fair in the Midwest was something of a homecoming for McClain. He grew up in a log house on a gravel road near a state forest about an hour south of Indianapolis. McClain jumped on a flight at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington to St. Louis, then drove three hours to Kahoka, Mo., to spend four days at the Clark County Fair — about as rural and middle America as one can get.

“Being born and raised in the rural Midwest gives me a deep appreciation for small towns and communities in the U.S.,” McClain said. “In a lot of ways, I feel more comfortable in situations like this. It feels like time slows down a little bit. You almost feel kind of sheltered from the news that’s going on. There’s an innocence. It represents a simpler life, and it’s a life that’s going away.”

McClain set to work making images of events such as the demolition derby, livestock judging and the midway rides.

“I always try to get there early and stay late. I always want that next great picture, so I am always pushing myself to stay longer and turn that next corner,” he said. “The next best picture that you’ve ever taken is moments away sometimes. You just don’t know it.”

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