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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.


6 Signs the Apocalypse Cometh

Shortcuts to obesity, paid shamelessness, D.C.’s constitutional right to bitch-slapping, and a potent antidote to it all.

It’s been the year of tectonic shifts, good and bad. A very real recession is upon us, a presidential election just made history in more ways than we can count, and the climate crisis has reached catastrophic proportions. It seems like (almost) everything good and holy is falling apart.

But because the devil’s in the details, we’re seeing the signs of the apocalypse in all sorts of places — some serious, some not, but all a what-have-we-lived-to-see cultural forehead-slapper.


You can now order it from your TiVo or right inside Facebook.

Domino's on TiVo

Because picking up the phone or typing a URL into your browser is too much work.



Yep, we don’t get it either.


Elected U.S. officials score 44% on a simple civic knowledge test.

The uninformed commonfolk who elected them score 49%.



It’s not how we roll.


Chief Proposition 8 strategist Frank SchubertCheck.

Don’t get us wrong, we have a couple of Mormon friends who are among the coolest people we’ve ever met. Which makes it all the harder to reconcile why their kind would try to deny others the basic human right to happiness they’ve been afforded themselves. Some, ahem, multiple times.


The Big Three CEO'sBig Three auto execs fly private jets — 3 separate ones — from Detroit to D.C. for their hearings before the Senate and House to beg for an additional $25 billion of taxpayer money, get bitch-slapped for ridiculously timed display of corporate excess.

Oh snap.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yep, the world has gone mad. But we like to think that for every preposterous, shameless, or downright idiotic drop of apocalyptic poison, there’s an even more powerful antidote.


  1. Yes We Can.
  2. Yes We Can.
  3. Yes We Can.
  4. Yes We Can.
  5. Yes We Can.
  6. Yes We Can.


I Met The Walrus: Lennon’s Brain Animated

Truth, aged like a good whiskey, from the cellar of a cultural legend.

In 1969, a brave 14-year-old boy named Jerry Levitan armed with a tape-deck snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room in Toronto and charmed the legend into doing an interview about peace, music, the USA, life and the Bee Gees. Thirty-nine years later, Levitan offered the interview to the world.

Only he did it brilliantly.

I Met The Walrus is an animated short, in which Lennon’s original voiceover comes to life through wonderful pen animation by the tremendously talented James Braithwaite.

Listen to Lennon’s detached yet passionate musings on politics, human nature and marijuana. And appreciate the irony of how true some of what he said 39 years ago rings today.

It’s up to the people. You can’t blame it on the government and say, ‘Oh, they’re doing this, they’re doing that, oh, they’re gonna put is us into war.’ We put ’em there. We allow it. And we can change it. If we really wanna change it, we can change it.” ~ John Lennon

*** UPDATE ***

Levitan’s once-in-a-lifetime Lennon adventure is now available in book form, as the wonderful I Met the Walrus: How One Day with John Lennon Changed My Life Forever — a priceless first-hand recollection of the unusual encounter. It features Jerry’s memorabilia from the day — notes from John and Yoko, the secret code to contact him, drawings, John’s doodles and more — as well as the animated film and the original audio interview. It is, as we certainly don’t need to point out, a cultural treasure and a Lennonphiliac must-have.


Tidying Up Art: Ursus Wehrli Deconstructs Iconic Paintings

How a neat freak with a penchant for humor retells the art history of the world.

Ursus Wehrli TED TalkWhen an art critic talks about deconstructing a painting, they’re normally talking figuratively — pick the concept apart, dissect the symbolism, analyze the message. Not the case with comedian-slash-experimental-artist Ursus Wehrli, who’s on a quest to deconstruct and tidy up art — literally.

The quirky Swiss takes famous artwork, deconstructs the elements it’s composed of — brush strokes, shapes, lines — and stacks them up neatly, altering nothing but the original’s spatial arrangement of those elements.

Ursus Wehrli: Keith Haring Deconstructed

The product, of course, is nothing like the original — and completely original at the same time.

The idea came to him after observing a hotel’s meticulous room service, which would transform his stuff-scattered room into a tidiness mecca every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Like any artist, this pushed him towards an unusual association as he asked himself how Van Gogh’s famous “Bedroom” would look if the room service crew could get their hands on it.

That first moment of inspiration drove him to explore the unusual approach further. His book, Tidying Up Art, does just that with dozens of masterpieces, humorously and innovatively deconstructed.

Watch his TED talk as he elaborates, rather entertainingly and with a true gift for comedy, on the project.

Our favorite: The Jackson Pollock one, which was such a mess to clean up that Wehrli went all the way to the bare bones, simply putting the paint back in the can.


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