Photographs copyright of Lauren Victoria Burke
Another recent Print on Demand (POD) that has been published at the end of 2008 immediately after the election of Barack Obama is the Lauren Burke title, Birth of a Statesman – Barack Obama. Okay, the title is even much longer, but check out the link for its entirety. Where as TheGuardian’s A Message For Obama was a global collaboration of everyday folks, Burke’s book is the result of a very professional Washington DC freelance photo/journalist. Where “Message” could be viewed as objective, “Statesman” is probably more subjective.
Like TheGuarian book, Birth of a Statesman is also a hardcover book, but in a larger horizontal 10 x 8 format, 240 pages with 475 color and black & white photographs. This book probably has incorporated every photographic page template known to Blurb, the POD printer, usually with a good design sense to add variety and a visual change of pace through the book.
The book documents Obama in the Senate before his presidential run and election, as well as segments of his Presidential campaign and final election night in Chicago. It is not meant to be an all inclusive about his campaign, as Burke was not an embedded photojournalist for the entire duration of Obama’s campaign. Like many photographers who self-publish a photographic book, she has a professional agenda for this book and her Washington DC photo agency, as a means to provide wider coverage for the photographs she has available. And I also suspect that she is an Obama Presidential supporter, but that is just my suspicion, in as she may have had an McCain book in the wings as well.
To her credit as a skilled journalist, as well as a skilled photographer, she weaves in a story, with the photographs not just inclusive of Obama, but showing the ebb and flow of his days in congress and his supporters during the campaign. And this adds to the weakness of the book. Her editing was not tight to provide the essence of who Obama might be, but instead broad and allowed much weaker photographs to be included. Such as the photograph of Obama and his interns after the fact that they were just photographed together. Huh? Perhaps the editing was an effort to illustrate how broad her available inventory is, much like a catalog of walking shoes and dry goods.
I can see the great potential of this book, such as the photographs of the supports as they expectantly wait for “Their” candidate. Burke has captured that certain intentsity you find in people who have found something that they can really believe in, that look in their faces and especially their eyes, their body postures and the resultant sense of anticipation. She senses and sees it and then elegantly captures it.
As well as documenting the social environment that also tells Obama’s story, opportunities she finds in the urban landscape. And she appears sensitive to the potential humor that lurks there too.
But I am too disappointed in the great amount of chafe that has been included with the wheat, that the distractions take away too much from the great images and the wonderful story that is hiding in this book.
Best regards, Douglas Stockdale