Iconic Obama poster based on Reuters photo — or was it?
Shepard Fairey‘s posters of Barack Obama became the iconic image of a historic campaign. After a bit of digging by a photographer and a blogger, it turns out that Fairey’s source material was a photo by Reuters’ veteran photographer Jim Young.
UPDATE, Jan 21: Or perhaps not. A flurry of online interest has resulted in the discovery of another photo from the Associated Press that may be a better match. Read about it at the blog run by Tom Gralish of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who has covered this story extensively.
Our original blog post continues below.
Blogger Michael Cramer created the composite photo above after sifting through countless images to find a match. The poster has Obama facing the opposite direction; Cramer flipped it to correspond with the original source photo.
Young, who took many thousands of photos of Obama on the campaign trail, was pleasantly surprised when told of his contribution to the iconic image. The original picture was taken in 2007 during a Senate confirmation hearing.
“I saw that poster all over the place, all year. For a lot of people it symbolized the campaign. It meant so much to so many people,” Young told Philadelphia Inquirer photographer and blogger Tom Gralish, who has led the search for the photo.
“I’m honored, but I’m glad it didn’t come out until after the campaign,” Jim added. “I think even if I had known it was mine, I would have kept quiet. It would be just my little secret.”
Ironically, Young unknowingly took several pictures of the poster on the campaign trail, including one through a window when it was flipped to match the orientation of his original photo.
Fairey, an artist who first came to fame for an altered picture of wrestler Andre the Giant, has said in interviews that he found the Obama source photo using Google Image Search and then “did his thing to it.” His “Hope” poster is now in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery.
“You’d think a whole bunch of photographers would step forward,” said Gralish in his blog post. He compared it to the Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photograph of a V-J Day kiss in Times Square, which has spurred dozens of people to come forward over the years, claiming to be the kissers in the picture.
More on the Fairey/Young image: