Radio Sandwell African / Caribbean News

The Obama pic that made social media history

2012-11-11 03:33:52

Barack and Michelle Obama

It was a picture that was worth 1,000 words - a photograph of Michelle and Barack Obama, his face etched with emotion, hugging.

The caption read: "Four more years."

As the four years became a reality for the Obamas in the US elections this week, that photograph made social media history.

It was the photograph that President Obama posted on Twitter and Facebook pages just as TV networks announced his victory.

"Four more years," his campaign team tweeted and his photo message became the most tweeted and the most liked on Facebook ever, beating the record previously set by teenage singer Justin Bieber.

The woman who took the photograph was Scout Tufankjian - a photojournalist who has travelled the world to cover breaking news.

But she took the first steps towards a career as a professional photojournalist on the streets of Northern Ireland.

At 18 years of age, she looked at the map of the world and decided that Ireland was for her.

"I wanted to go some place where English was spoken, but was cheaper than London," she said.

She ended up in Northern Ireland and liked it so much that she came back to study Peace and Conflict Studies.

"I settled in Derry and one day I saw photographers covering Lundy Day protests. I just realised then that I could take my pictures and be paid for it. I could be a professional photographer," she said.

"That was the moment that I got serious about photography. I went home, I bought a decent camera, I took courses and I started to work."

Since then, she has covered international stories like the Egyptian revolution and the Haitian earthquake.

Back in 2006, she was sent to New Hampshire to cover a book signing by a junior senator from Illinois. She decided to spend two and half years covering what became his winning presidential campaign.

Scout Tufankjian

"Through sheer chance and pigheadedness, I became the only photojournalist to cover the entirety of the 2008 Obama campaign," she said.

She made a book of her photographs, Yes We Can, and got on with her job for Newsweek, Essence, US News & World Report, Le Monde, Newsday and The New York Times.

The latest Obama picture was taken in Dubuque, Iowa, on 15 August.

"Iowa is always a pretty special place for the Obamas, since Iowans were really the first people outside of Chicago to embrace the Obama candidacy, and we had been on a bus tour for three days," she said.

"This was the first event the First Lady had been at and they hadn't seen each other for a few days."

For Scout, the Obamas are inspirational.

"I find their relationship to be totally inspirational in terms of the respect they have for each other, so I always try to focus on them as a couple, rather than as public figures.

"I am recently married but when I was dating, I used to ring my boyfriend and ask; 'Do you love me as much as Barack loves Michelle?'"

When she heard that the US President had tweeted her picture and that it had broken social media records, she was surprised and shocked.

"It is not really about my picture," she said. "It is about how people feel about the Obama family."

But it was good moment for her.

Now she will turn her attention to going wherever the big stories are, which can mean danger.

"My parents prefer the Obama coverage to the Egyptian revolution," she joked.

She is passionate about her job as a photojournalist which has been her life for 13 to 14 years.

"I feel connected to people and the way they live their lives. This gives me a window into people's lives and I have been so fortunate that they have welcomed me in.

"I show up on the worst days of people's lives and yet they welcome me," she said.

Scout also treasures her links to Northern Ireland, where she has returned on several occasions to cover news like the marching season.

"I have many friends there," she said. "I owe them a visit, but luckily many of them like to come to me in New York."


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