Tufankjian didn’t know that the campaign had used the picture as their Election Night victory image until a friend emailed her about it. It’s unusual that such a personal shot would be used in such a high-profile way, but Tufankjian says it makes sense to her. “It reflects on the way that people feel about the Obamas as people, rather than as public figures,” she said. “What the family is and represents to the country is as much a part of the president’s appeal as his policies.”
After she chronicled Obama’s 2008 campaign, his campaign team hired her in August 2012 as one of their two official photojournalists. It’s given her an opportunity to travel with the president and witness scenes that few ever get to see—like the moment a pizza shop owner in Florida gave the President a bear hug that lifted him off his feet.
The President is “so much happier and more relaxed” when he’s with his family, Tufankjian confided. “He and the first lady are so focused on each other. The way that they play off each other and get energy from each other… when I was shooting the president during the 2008 campaign I would watch them greet each other on stage and I used to text-message my boyfriend, now my husband: ‘Do you love me as much as Barack loves Michelle?’ and he’d be like, ‘Probably not, no’.”
Still, she has hope. “The way that they relate to each other—they just celebrated their 20th anniversary—the way they enjoy each other and listen to each other, and the real respect that they have for each other is something I would like to see in my relationship twenty years from now,” she said.
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