Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘photography’

25 NOVEMBER, 2008

Photography Spotlight: The Obama Phenomenon


What a camera and a chalkboard have to do with the political and cultural heritage of our time.

There’s no question the Obama campaign ignited some powerful human emotions. But it’s hard to grasp just how powerful by simply talking about them from the sidelines of abstraction. That’s why photographer Scout Tufankjian decided to dissect those most visceral, deeply moving elements of the history-making campaign.

Scout Tufankjian: The Early Days

Nearly two years ago, Tufankjian reluctantly took an assignment to shoot an Obama book signing, something she called “a photographer’s nightmare.” Scout Tufankjian: Book Signing

But as soon as Obama walked into the room, the crowd became so transfixed that Tufankjian couldn’t help being intrigued and absorbed by the energy. Inspired, she set to explore this incredible phenomenon by following the candidate along the campaign trail, documenting not the stereotypical glamor moments of high-stakes politics but, rather, the Obama’s guy-next-door everyday, the immense emotional charge of his supporters, the most intimate moments of the Obama family.

Scout Tufankjian: The Early Days

What started as a reluctant assignment evolved into a rich and incredibly profound portrait of America.

Scout Tufankjian: The Early Days

Scout Tufankjian: The Early Days

You can’t help finding yourself absorbed and overwhelmed by Obama’s incredibly powerful presence — powerful not because he is now the leader of the free world, but because it appears to move people — everyday people — deeply, to touch them on a fundamentally human level so uncommon in politics.

Scout Tufankjian: The Road to The Convention

Scout Tufankjian: The Road to The Convention

Somewhere between Beatlemania and The Fallen, the collection captures those big human truths that Obama resonated with so deeply, the very resonance that got him elected in the end.

Scout Tufankjian: The Road to The Convention

Scout Tufankjian: The Road to The Convention

Indeed, it’s hard not to appreciate the strong resemblance, both photographic and cultural, to the incredible social force that was Kennedy captured in The Fallen, particularly in the eerie reminiscence of the images showing Obama’s arrival via the Pennsylvania rail.

Scout Tufankjian: The Road to The Convention

It’s no surprise, really, since one of Tufankjian’s photographs shows a woman answering the question of why she was voting Obama with a simple yet momentous phrase: “The Kennedy Package.”

Perhaps the most powerful element of Tufankjian’s photographic feat is actually just that — his exploration of the vast spectrum of Obama supporters. Armed with a chalkboard and a camera, she simply asked people at Obama rallies to jot down why they were voting for him.

Scout Tufankjian: Obama Supporters

Scout Tufankjian: Obama Supporters

Scout Tufankjian: Obama Supporters

Amazon: Yes We Can
The book, featuring over 200 of Tufankjian’s most impactful photographs from this 2-year-long portrait of the Obama phenomenon, is available on Amazon December 8 — and what better holiday gift than a rich piece of political, cultural and emotional history?

via DPS

Update: Thanks to a friend of Scout’s for pointing out Scout is indeed a she, not a he. The mistake has been fixed and we’re, needless to say, deeply embarrassed to have been even less accurate than GWAP’s infamous Gender Test.

19 NOVEMBER, 2008

Life on Google


Why Google holds the key to modernity and what Madonna arms have to do with the moon landing.

LIFE logo We love Google. And now they’ve joined forces with another icon of our time, LIFE Magazine, to bring us something truly marvelous — LIFE‘s photo archive, spanning millions of never-before-seen photos from 1750 to today.


The collection, in all its searchable glory, includes photographs of every cultural icon you can think of, be it person or place or event.

Charles Lindbergh

From striking Civil War images, to Times Square in its 1942 glamor, to Neil Armstrong’s legendary first steps on the moon, to Steve Jobs sporting the “Mac guy” look way back in 1981 — everything that shaped the course of history and the evolution of culture is there.


Unfortunately, something sorely missing from the archive is the ability to browse with Cooliris the way you can with normal Google Image Search. Still, this brilliant piece of cultural capital is a force to be reckoned with.

Go, reckon.

13 NOVEMBER, 2008

Artist Spotlight: Teddy Zareva


How a photographer’s lens can break through the thickest of walls.

Visual art, at its most powerful, charges a static image with a fluid and turbulent flow of thought and emotion.

Photographer Teddy Zareva does just that in her work, sometimes aspirationally glamorous, often gritty and raw, and always rich in human complexity.

American Boy

Her work shows a profound understanding of the human body, made all the more impactful by her brave use of light and color.

Green Tea

Look at me like THAT

But we’re particularly taken with Teddy’s series of emotive portraits, which capture those deepest, most complex layers of how we relate to others and to ourselves.

Together Apart

Make Love Like a... Star

Free Hugs

Play You

Do You Have a Light?

Check out more of her work on deviantART, with select prints available for purchase.