Obama Photos: NH Campaign Trail
SLIDE SHOW: Tim Llewellyn photos of Obama campaign in New Hampshire
VIDEO: Tim Llewellyn’s interview on Maine’s TV news magazine “207″.
I remember sitting in my American history class in school, glazing over at the names and dates, never internalizing the fact that both belonged to real flesh-and-blood people. So much mythology surrounded these figures that Washington and Jefferson were no more concrete to me than Jay Gatsby, just as Julius Caesar was no more real than Aeneas–and often less.
Looking back, the most important day in my study of history came on a cold morning in New Hampshire, more than a decade after I’d sat in those classrooms. It was the day I was standing next to the slender senator from Illinois, listening to a pulsing crowd.
I spent the better part of a year working as Senator Barack Obama’s personal campaign photographer. I traveled around New Hampshire with him, documenting his road to the White House. From the motorcade to the town hall meetings, from Manchester to Berlin, I witnessed firsthand the campaign’s transformation from a small grassroots operation into an international phenomenon. And as his photographer, I’m pretty sure I had the best seat in the house.
I was with him when he signed the official registry as a candidate in the nation’s first primary, I was with him when the crowds started to line up around the block to hear him speak, I was there as rooms overflowed with the crowd, and I was there when he gave his now-historic “Yes We Can” speech in Nashua.
I know that I was a part of history, or at least got to stand onstage as it unfolded. But these stuff-of-history moments aren’t as important to me as the small ones. It was in the details that I began to see history in a different way.
The question I most often get when I talk to people about my time with the candidate is: “Is he the real thing?” They want to know what he’s like as a person. This is how I answer. A few months into the campaign, my father’s brother died; he’d been living with my family as he battled late-stage liver cancer. When he passed away, I missed some campaign time to be with my family. After the funeral, we were all sitting around the dinner table when my phone rang; not wanting to answer, I let the call go to voice mail. Later I found the call had come from Senator Obama, giving his condolences to my family. He told me to take as much time as I needed and that his thoughts were with my family during those difficult days.
That phone call, less than a minute, defined my time with the senator. It was unexpected and perhaps unnecessary, but it was heartfelt and spoke to the core of my time with him. And my father, who had voted Republican in an uninterrupted streak that ran for 50 years, voted for a Democrat last November.