Wednesday, May 27, 2009
'Young Obama' Surfaces
From Mike Boehm at the Los Angeles Times:
A public that wants to know everything about Barack Obama can thank Lisa Jack for a glimpse of what the future president was like when he was just another college freshman trying to cut a figure in this world -- with a partly unbuttoned Oxford shirt, a big Panama hat and puffs of cigarette smoke as his props of choice for projecting that coveted aura of post-adolescent confidence and cool. Obama can thank Jack for keeping the roll of photographs she took of him in 1980 out of circulation until he was elected.
Nine were first published in Time magazine's December "Person of the Year" spread on Obama; now 21 of the 36 photos, plus a blow-up of her original contact sheet, make up "Barack Obama: The Freshman," an exhibition opening Thursday at M+B Gallery in West Hollywood. Jack rummaged for the long-ignored negatives in her Minneapolis basement early in 2008, after it became clear Obama was a serious contender for the presidency.
The callow kid kicking back on a couch in a living room near L.A.'s Occidental College, where he and Jack were students, may not have been the image the Obama campaign wanted to project. . . .
"I'm sure Hillary would have paid a fortune for them: 'Is this who you want picking up the phone at 3 a.m.?' " Jack said from Minneapolis, her discourse earthy, humorous and freewheeling, sometimes salty. "I could have made a boatload of money, probably, but I wanted to do it right.". . .
The young woman from Rye, N.Y., loved her psychology courses but cared enough about photography to find mentors on the faculty who tutored her in independent study courses. With a blanket thrown over the couch she recalls as "a plaid horrible thing," the living room of the apartment she shared in a nondescript quadruplex near the campus in Eagle Rock became Jack's makeshift photo studio.
Students from her circle of friends and acquaintances would pose for portraits that she would hand in as her weekly assignments. That day a friend was telling her about a student named Barry she ought to photograph "because he's so cute."
Moments later, the man himself walked in. He agreed to the shoot. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the session, Jack says, although it impressed her that Obama had taken the initiative to bring the big, banded hat, a leather, bomber-style jacket with a fur collar and cigarettes as grist for her lens. "He obviously thought about how he wanted to have his picture taken." . . .
Jack appreciated Obama when she ran into him that summer in a Honolulu nightclub -- he a local, she a visiting summer student. "He was sitting there with a woman on each lap. They were babes, and I'm not a babe." But the president-to-be extricated himself, came over to Jack's table and chatted. . . .
The White House media office declined a request for comment from the president, who spent two years at Occidental then graduated from Columbia University. . . .