The PhotoBook Journal

January 18, 2009

Lauren Burke – Birth of a Statesman – Barack Obama

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:34 pm

cover-birth-of-statesman

Photographs 2008 copyright of Lauren Victoria Burke

This is another Print on Demand (POD) that has been published at the end of 2008 immediately after the election of Barack Obama by Lauren Burke Birth of a Statesman – Barack Obama. Where as TheGuardian’s A Message For Obama was a global collaboration of a broad spectrum of photographers Burke’s book is the result of a very professional Washington DC freelance photo/journalist project where “Message” could be viewed as objective while “Statesman” is more subjective.

Like TheGuarian book Burke’s Birth of a Statesman is a hardcover book in a larger horizontal 10 x 8″ format with 240 pages that include 475 color and black & white photographs. This book probably has incorporated every photographic page template known to Blurb, the POD printer, with a nice 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 some 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. Her story shows the ebb and flow of his days in congress and his supporters during the campaign. I think that this adds to the weakness of the book as her editing is 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 potential of this book as the photographs of his supports as they expectantly wait for “Their” candidate. Burke has captured that certain intensity you find in people who have found something that they can really believe in with that look of expectancy in their faces and especially their eyes. Her subject’s body postures and the resultant sense of anticipation come through. She senses and sees this expectancy and then elegantly captures it.

She documents the social environment that also tells Obama’s story with opportunities she finds in the urban landscape. Burke appears sensitive to the potential humor that lurks within this environment as well.

But I am too disappointed in the great amount of chafe that has been included with the wheat and that the distractions take away too much from the great photographic images and the wonderful story that is hiding in this book.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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