Twin Cities woman shares 'cool and fun' pics of Obama from college

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 5, 2009 - 9:30 PM

Accepting a friend's challenge to prove that Barack Obama was a college acquaintance has forever changed a suburban St. Paul woman's life.

Lisa Jack dug out negatives of a photo shoot she did in 1980 with the future president, and several of the black and white images were published by Time magazine in its "Person of the Year" issue last month.

They include him in various "thoughtful, cool and fun" poses, taken while Obama and Jack were students at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Jack said Monday. "I have a photo agent for this now" to handle the flood of requests to reproduce the images, said Jack, a professor of psychology at Augsburg College and a practicing therapist. "It's been insane. Time's switchboards were ringing off the hook."

Jack said she dug up the photos in early 2008 after she mentioned to friends that she knew Obama in college. "If I hadn't been dared, I probably wouldn't have gone to look for them," she said.

Obama was brought to Jack's attention back then, she recalls, by a friend of a friend who thought she'd like to use him as a subject. The photos were taken at her apartment. She said he was somewhat uneasy at first, but he loosened up by the time she was done taking 36 shots.

In a piece she wrote last month for "Inside Augsburg," Jack recalls how her friend described Obama, whom they called Barry, as a "hot guy" who was irresistible. "I never did realize my dream of becoming a professional photographer," Jack wrote, "but I did keep the negatives from my early photographic explorations. And now that 'Barry' is the president-elect, I offer them up so that others may see a side to him I have yet to observe captured in the current maelstrom of contemporary media. I believe the images reflect his spirit of fun and thoughtfulness that I hope he hasn't lost on his road to the White House. For the record, there wasn't a nicer, more sincere guy in college."

She said she waited until after the election to release the photos because "I just didn't want to be caught up in anything political. I also didn't know how he might be seen with cigarettes. I just wanted to be respectful." She said she's thrilled with how Time used her photos and emphasized that "I haven't netted anything" from her contribution.

Might she revive her ambition to be a professional photographer, maybe become the Annie Leibovitz of the Twin Cities? She acknowledged that she'd love to take similar shots of Minnesota athletes, politicians and celebrities. "I would love to take Amy Klobuchar's picture," Jack said of the Democratic senator. "I would love to make her look so cool."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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