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Found - AGAIN - the Poster Source Photo

The photographer is MANNIE GARCIA, a Washington DC freelancer for the Associated Press. (UPDATE: Click here for more.)

ROAD20090121A2.jpgDriving home from Washington after the inauguration, cruising on adrenalin from covering the historic event and then stopping two or three times for coffee, and even posting - from a rest area on I-95 - for a fourth time about this "Obama Poster Photo Source MYSTERY" and making late night cell phone calls (is it against the law while driving in Maryland?) to the Associated Press bureaus in New York and Washington and talking to editors who said they hadn't seen anything about a photo being credited as the source of the Obama poster, but promised to leave a note for the day shift, I got home and couldn't go to sleep. Whew.

So I figured I'd see how hard it could be to find the photographer a bunch of us have been looking for for a while now.

It wasn't that difficult - especially since I had at least five or six clues from others - mostly in the form of emails I received, and comments on my recent blog post and on James Danziger's The Year in Pictures.

Searching Google Images with terms - Obama 2006 - I hit a photo-illustration on only the fourth page.

That image, which used the Obama photo was found on the Extreme Mortman political blog, which took me to the original site for the Examiner.com's Yeas and Nays column:

Then, inspired by Mike Cramer of Philadelphia who located the Reuters news photo last week we all believed was the source photograph - he found it on the 20th page of his search - I kept going up into the forties. No luck.

Bored with that, I remembered the photo on the CBS site that a number of sleuths told me about had an AP credit, so I added "associated press" to my search terms. And there it was - on page nine:
And amazingly enough, just like with Mike's initial find, this one had a Pennsylvania connection. The image was a file photo, on the pennlive.com website, with a March 2008 Harrisburg Patriot News story about the Pennsylvania Primary.

I right-clicked on the Obama headshot, and to my surprise, downloaded a FULLSIZE, as in 24.7 Megabytes, version of the original AP file. Then, holding my breath, I opened the IPTC caption file and there it was:

The photo was made by freelance photographer Mannie Garcia who was on assignment for the AP in April of 2006, where a National Press Club news advisory alerted the media that, ROAD20090121H.jpg"Academy Award Winner George Clooney will address National Press Club on his recent visit to war-torn Darfur and will release video footage from his trip to Sudan. Clooney will be joined by U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), co-sponsors of S. 1462, The Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, and co-sponsors of amendments to increase funding
for peacekeeping operations in Sudan."

So, it looks like the image that poster artist Shepard Fairey said looked presidential, telling the Washington Post: "He is gazing off into the future, saying, 'I can guide you,' " actually showed our new president listening to George Clooney. Or, probably more likely, fellow Senator Brownback.

Here's a CBS videotape of the Press Conference.

When I wake up this morning, I'll be calling the AP in Washington and seeing if Mannie replied to my email.


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Comments (12)

Good work Tom!

Fantastic work! That'll teach me not to rely on TinEye.

I actually trawled through 250 pages of that espressbeans bulletin board another commenter mentioned, but I couldn't find the prior discovery they claimed.


Michael Scherer credited your work and linked to this on the TIME blog Swampland a few minutes ago, so you are likely to see a lot of traffic.

Since Garcia seems to have contacted you, you might want to let him know that Terry Gross interviewed Fairey yesterday.

It was very interesting to see this photo!


This is some fantastic sleuthing. Thanks!

Wow, what a great job finding the original photographer! Thanks for letting us know the story behind the picture.

Robert Swenson:

Not to put your excellent work in doubt, but could you please explain why the last diagonal row of three stars is visible above Obama's head in the "iconic" photo and not visible in the larger photo posted here?


Robert, the two photos are each different images.

The vertical one at the very top - the one most agree now was the image used by Shepard Fairey as the basis for his poster, is NOT just a cropped version of the horizontal version.

Sorry for the confusion.

The two photos were shot with different lenses, but from the same relative position. The light on him is the same, but Obama's expressions are just slightly different, as is the depth of focus.

I only included the second photo (with George Clooney) because it shows the context in which Mannie Garcia shot the picture. I thought it was also further evidence of when and where the basis photograph was taken. After the challenges to other photos in the past week, I was trying to offer up as much evidence as possible to the photographer's identity. That's also why I was tying to make the process of how I located the photographer's name as transparent as possible.

(Again, I'm reminding everyone I did NOT find this photo. I just used all the clues found by other web sleuths to locate a version that hadn't been stripped of all of its metadata so we could determine who actually took the picture. Then I used that information to locate other photos - including some made by other photographers present at the event - to substantiate it all)



The original image should have been credited by Shepard Fairey from the start. However, well done finding the original context and photographer!


Mannie Garcia's work has always been outstanding and his sleuth techniques keep him going and up nights. Thanks to all for great shots.

As much as I love the Fairey work, I sort of like the photo better. Thanks for your research and sharing!


Excellent search!


Fairey has stole from more people than just Garcia.


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Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos. He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo essay of homeless people in the city.

For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award. During the first Gulf War, he was the photo editor in Saudi Arabia for all newspaper photographers embedded with U.S. military units.

His weekly column, "Scene on the Street," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.


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