CBS ‘Early Show’ Highlights Obama Photographer

Harry Smith and Scout Tufankjian, CBS On Wednesday’s CBS Early Show co-host Harry Smith aired an interview he did with photojournalist Scout Tufankjian, who has followed Barack Obama since 2006: "Two years and some one million photographs later, Tufankjian's first book, 'Yes We Can.' She was the only independent photojournalist to cover the Obama campaign from start to finish."

Smith asked Tufankjian: "And had you ever met anybody like him before?" Tufankjian responded: "No. You can be so sick of him, and, you know, having heard the same speech and you're tired, you haven't slept, and I haven't seen my boyfriend in six weeks, and I haven't had a decent meal in ages, and I'm crabby and I'm angry and he smiles at you and it just kind of knocks you over."

Tufankjian also explained her motivation for the book: "For people, years from now, I want them to see this is -- this is what this moment in history was like this is how it felt. This is how I saw it...[Obama supporters] thought this guy's going to be president, he's going to change my life, he's going to change my kids' life, he is going to change the country."

After the taped interview was played, Smith added: "And I saw Scout on the [Obama inaugural] train from Philadelphia down to D.C. on Saturday and she is covering the prayer service this morning at the National Cathedral." Co-host Maggie Rodriguez remarked: "What a privilege."

Immediately following the segment, Rodriguez segued to another report: "One of the things that makes those photographs so wonderful is that it captures Barack Obama with regular people. This who he campaigned for, these are the people who came out here in droves to watch him be inaugurated yesterday, as they did all over the country. CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers is in his hometown, Chicago, with that part of the story."

Bowers reported: "There is no denying from coast to coast, all the way to Hawaii, and even here in the Valoy Cafeteria in the new president's old neighborhood, Americans are excited and eager as Mr. Obama took the stage." She later asked Chicago resident Andrea Watson: "You are beaming. Do you feel more optimistic for your family? You've got two boys, husband at home." Watson replied: "Yes, I do. I feel very optimistic. I think Obama's a great man and he's going to do everything that he says he's going to do." As Bowers tossed coverage to Smith, she concluded: "Okay, so there's definitely a wait-and-see approach here, Harry. But folks are excited and that's a start. We needed that."

Here is a full transcript of the segment:

8:31AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Everybody who came here to Washington, D.C. had to be here, because it was just such a long shot when Barack Obama launched his campaign for the presidency. Nobody said it could happen.

HARRY SMITH: But one photojournalist was there from the very beginning. Take a look.

[TAPED REPORT]

SMITH: Scout Tufankjian's photographs are part of history now. And so is her last name.

SCOUT TUFANKJIAN: It means son of a gun.

SMITH: Really? In?

TUFANKJIAN: Um-hum. Armenian.

SMITH: In Armenian.

SMITH: Tufankjian started her career covering the Gaza Strip. So is this the camera?

TUFANKJIAN: Yeah, this is my baby.

SMITH: Next came an assignment for a Barack Obama book signing in December 2006, in New Hampshire.

TUFANKJIAN: I drove up there, and I just -- I thought it was going to be so boring.

SMITH: Senator Obama wasn't even a candidate then.

TUFANKJIAN: And I didn't know anything about this stuff.

SMITH: Even though thousands of her photographs were eventually published in newspapers and magazines, most of the time, Tufankjian had to pay her own way.

TUFANKJIAN: These are my maxed out credit cards, these are the three -- I paid off two of them.

SMITH: Two years and some one million photographs later, Tufankjian's first book, 'Yes We Can.' She was the only independent photojournalist to cover the Obama campaign from start to finish. And had you ever met anybody like him before?

TUFANKJIAN: No. You can be so sick of him, and, you know, having heard the same speech and you're tired, you haven't slept, and I haven't seen my boyfriend in six weeks, and I haven't had a decent meal in ages, and I'm crabby and I'm angry and he smiles at you and it just kind of knocks you over. For people, years from now, I want them to see this is -- this is what this moment in history was like this is how it felt. This is how I saw it.

SMITH: This says 'June 3, 2008. Nomination is his.'

TUFANKJIAN: This is the day that he said 'I am the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.' This woman would not let him go.

SMITH: Right.

TUFANKJIAN: They thought, this guy's going to be president, he's going to change my life, he's going to change my kids' life, he is going to change the country.

SMITH: Do you have a favorite picture?

TUFANKJIAN: My favorite picture, my girls from South Carolina, they saw him and went completely insane. I love them.

SMITH: Tufankjian was most impressed by Obama's discipline. But she also saw another side.

TUFANKJIAN: Here's one. This is right after Pennsylvania, so this is after they had him doing all of the-

SMITH: Bowling, drinking beer.

TUFANKJIAN: The bowling, drinking the PBR.

SMITH: Right. Did you see him drink Martinis?

TUFANKJIAN: In Berlin.

SMITH: As somebody who was there so much of two years, what was his response to you?

TUFANKJIAN: He treated me like an annoying younger relative. He would grab my hands and shake my camera. During a rope line he would be like, 'Scout, you're distracting me.'

SMITH: Do you ever feel like you'll be able to get that close again?

TUFANKJIAN: No, definitely not.

SMITH: Sometimes Tufankjian and Obama were alone at early campaign events. Now they both have plenty of company. And I saw Scout on the train from Philadelphia down to D.C. on Saturday and she is covering the prayer service this morning at the National Cathedral.

RODRIGUEZ: What a privilege.

SMITH: Yeah. And the thing is, if you're a still photographer, you can get a little closer to the candidate, because there's no tape running, there's no camera on -- from -- video camera on, so there's a little bit, you get a more candid view in those pictures that she took, surely show that.

RODRIGUEZ: I never thought I would find someone who spent more time on the trail with him than you. But we have.

SMITH: Or our intrepid daily correspondents who were on that bus a lot.

RODRIGUEZ: This is true. One of the things that makes those photographs so wonderful is that it captures Barack Obama with regular people. This who he campaigned for, these are the people who came out here in droves to watch him be inaugurated yesterday, as they did all over the country. CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers is in his hometown, Chicago, with that part of the story. Good morning, Cynthia.

CYNTHIA BOWERS: Good morning, Maggie. There is no denying from coast to coast, all the way to Hawaii, and even here in the Valoy Cafeteria in the new president's old neighborhood, Americans are excited and eager as Mr. Obama took the stage.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Fantastic. It's like watching Dr. King's dream come alive. And I'm so happy that the children have a chance to actually experience this.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I got some goosebumps a couple times. And it brought a tear in a way because you see how everyone is united on one force.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Even people that still face stereotypes today and racism, they say 'oh, I can't get this opportunity because I'm black.' We can't say that anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B: I never thought I'd see this day, and I'm just thrilled.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY B: I believe that he will make a change.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN C: Good-bye to the old, and hello to the new.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B: It was worth waiting in the cold. To witness history.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN C: It was hard to keep the emotions in check. It was a great day. Yes.

[FOOTAGE OF CHEERING CROWDS IN BETWEEN QUOTES]

BOWERS: We're here with a couple of folks who are dining in the neighborhood today. Andrea Watson and Jerry Wilson. You're a plumber from Gary. Let's start with you. Are you optimistic about this new administration? And if so, why? Why not?

JERRY WILSON: Yes I am. I think -- I got the wait-and-see approach. You know, because I think that's one person. I think he's going to be a great person as president. Our first African-American president. So I got that wait-and-see approach. I want to see what's going on.

BOWERS: He is talking about dusting yourself off and getting to work. Are you ready to do that?

WILSON: Oh, absolutely, too. But while I have this opportunity, I want to take the opportunity to -- when he starts boosting that economy, starts spending some of these dollars, I'd like to see more African-Americans in the building trades industry. I'm a master plumber and there's very few of us in our community. You go through some of the urban areas, you see some of these jobs. So, that's some of the things I would like to see.

BOWERS: You want to see trickle down to the African-American community.

WILSON: Yes.

BOWERS: Andrea is a dialysis tech at a hospital here. You are beaming. Do you feel more optimistic for your family? You've got two boys, husband at home.

ANDREA WATSON: Yes, I do. I feel very optimistic. I think Obama's a great man and he's going to do everything that he says he's going to do.

BOWERS: What can he do? We're in a fix here.

WATSON: He's going to make everything better for us, better economy, more jobs, and just do great things for us.

BOWERS: So do you believe that your optimism and your neighbor's and family's optimism is enough to get us back on track?

WATSON: Yes, I do.

BOWERS: And maybe get us going?

BOWERS: Okay, so there's definitely a wait-and-see approach here, Harry. But folks are excited and that's a start. We needed that.

SMITH: Alright. Cynthia, thank you so much. Live in a diner in Chicago.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC