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The story behind the 'Barack Obama: The Freshman' photo exhibition

May 26, 2009 | 10:00 pm

Obama80 For the record, Lisa Jack says that as she spent an hour or so photographing Barack Obama 29 years ago when they were both students at L.A.'s Occidental College, she wasn't thinking of anything except getting her black-and-white images to come out well.

The pictures she shot that day for a photography course were good enough for a selection to finally see the light of day last December in Time magazine's "Person of the Year" spread on Obama, and now 21 pictures from her 36-shot roll are hanging at M+B Gallery in West Hollywood, where Jack is making a belated photographic debut Thursday with the opening of her exhibition "Barack Obama: The Freshman."

(For the full story in Calendar, click here. And for more photos click here.)

The description of the encounter in the gallery's press release and on its website gives a glimpse of what purportedly was on the mind of the photographer, who went on to earn a PhD in psychology from USC and become a therapist and a professor at Augsburg College in Minneapolis:

"Being herself a young undergrad, her interests did not lie at the time with questions of identity and selfhood, but rather she secretly hoped that 'Barry' would ask her out afterward.  He did not...."

It's a good story, Jack says, but a tad embellished.

LisaJack"The truth is that Paris Match interviewed me and kept looking for some kind of romance. I said, 'Maybe  it would have been nice to go eat with him.' When the gallery translated that from French, it turned into 'I wanted him to ask me out.' It's pretty funny. I called up Shannon Richardson [the gallery's director] and said, 'I did not have a crush on him. What am I going to tell my mother and everybody?' But I said, 'Turn it into whatever you want. Everyone has a crush on him.' I have more of a crush on him now than I did then, but I would never, ever touch Michelle's man. I know better. I'm only 5-foot-2."

Jack's instructor, Daniel Fineman, an English professor at Occidental who also teaches independent-study photography courses, says that, judging from the images he saw in Time, she must have been pretty well focused on the task at hand.

"She did everything right on those photos. The expressions are lively and human, decent composition, no major flaws. They're attractive. I'm sure I would still give that person a very high grade. In a small way, I feel like I've participated in something historical."

-- Mike Boehm

Top photo: Barack Obama in 1980. Credit: Lisa Jack / M+B Gallery, Courtesy Contour by Getty Images.

Bottom photo: Lisa Jack, shown in the same corner of the same living room near Occidental College where she photographed Obama. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

PREVIOUSLY: Obama photo exhibition coming to L.A.

Comments () | Archives (3)

Hi Lisa
Can I get permission to use the photo of Obama in an exhibit entitled, My Life, L.A. I am gathering photos and pulling graphics and blurbs. I can send you a sample. the event is at the Leimert Park Book Fair, Sat June 6. If you can send a high resolution image I would be forever in your debt and will fully acknowledge your credit or any other requirements. This is not something I am selling just displaying as an exhibiiton.
pam ward

Phone: (323) 732-3391
Email: wardgrahics@sbcglobal.com

MY LIFE, L.A.: The Los Angeles Legacy Project

Something new has been added to this year’s Leimert Park Village Book Fair! Angelinos will have and opportunity to participate in an interactive experience called “My Life, LA: The Los Angeles Legacy Project.” Participants will view Los Angeles landmarks, images of life in Black Los Angeles, record their own stories and be photographed. The goal for this project is to create a historical document of Black Los Angeles and the Leimert Park Village Book Fair. Eventually these stories will be compiled and printed.

The creator of this project is Pam Ward, a third generation native of Los Angeles, author and graphic designer. She states, “My grandfather remembers a Black man starting his own bus service in Watts at 103rd and Central by converting a broken down truck into a public bus and charging a nickel a ride. Fifty years later my father, James C. Moore, a Black architect, designed the Watts library in the same location. L.A. is filled with unique and enterprising stories and I thought there are probably lots of families with their own tales and how great it would be to weave them together.”

Partnering with Pam Ward is ProView, a photo company focusing on diversity. Photographer, David Cook will have a station within the MY LIFE, L.A. booth, where participants will have their photos taken in front of Los Angeles landmarks.

“As an author, activist and designer, I see the importance of documenting the moment. If we don’t record our stories, who will?” stated Pam Ward. Ms. Ward’s latest novel, BAD GIRLS BURN SLOW, is a wicked romp through the funeral business, it is filled with facts about Los Angeles’ oldest burial grounds.

“This exhibit captures the spirit of our Book Fair’s 2009 theme --- ‘Celebrating Our Literacy Legacy: Our History, Our Heritage, Our Stories’ --- perfectly. Additionally, I think this project has the great potential of becoming an outstanding document of our history in this city” added Cynthia Ethusian Exum, Leimert Park Village Book Fair founder and producer. “Indeed, we are pleased to premier this valuable family history project during our literary event, and we hope everyone will visit the exhibit.”

The 3rd Annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair is Saturday, June 6, 2009 in Leimert Park (43rd Street and Degnan Blvd). This one-day event starts at 10:00am and runs until 6:00pm. The day will be filled with activities for the entire family and will feature celebrity authors, book signings, panel discussions, food, storytelling, poetry, live entertainment and an opportunity for you to create your own story. So look for the new MY LIFE, L.A. booth. Don’t miss this opportunity to tell your story!

For more information on the Book Fair, contact: (323) 730-0628 or www.leimertparkbookfair.com.

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Has this guy ever had an uncool day in his life!!!!

Did the writer happen to ask Ms. Jack if "Barry" was introduced to her as Barry Obama or Barry Sotero?


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