It’s not often that you get to witness history being made in front of you. I know I wasn’t there when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or former President Kennedy lost their lives. I wasn’t sitting anywhere near Rosa Parks on the bus that fateful day. I have no idea what conversations were being had on the Underground Railroad.
But I was here when we elected our first black president. I remember pulling the lever in the voting booth and feeling intense pride. I was also here when we re-elected President Barack Obama in his second term. As I snapped photos of my voting location, I smiled at the diversity of people, patiently waiting to cast their vote and make sure their voices were heard. Our contributions to history were palpable.
The photographer, Scout Tufankjian wanted to show the “deep love and respect” the iconic couple shared. He has no idea that his simple and potent flick would become the most viral photo ever. According to The Daily Beast, the embrace between President Obama and Michelle that was shared via the president’s Twitter account the night of the election, sparked over 816,000 retweets as of yesterday, it’s the most shared photo on Twitter and the most liked on Facebook, with over two million likes.
Tufankjian wasn’t the one who pushed the photo to be used on election night. It was actually 31-year-old Laura Olin–a digital operative with less than a year on the job. Olin had been up since 4 a.m., the previous morning and with barely any sleep, decided to post the photographic embrace that seemed to speak to us all.
Olin was the first staffer working at Blue State Digital--the company behind the Obama campaign’s digital presence. She’s since been joined by a full team that handles Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Spotify accounts for Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Michelle Obama.
Olin credits her team for the Obama campaign’s poignant presence online, “It was kind of terrifying, actually. My team ran the Barack Obama Twitter handle, which I think was probably most susceptible to really embarrassing and silly mistakes. We didn’t ever really have one, which I still can’t believe WE pulled off.”
So how did a sleepy Olin decide which photo of President Obama she’d use as the victory shot? Again, she credits the team:
“One of my team members, Jessi Langsen, remembered that there was an amazing photo of the president and first lady hugging at the president’s very last campaign rally in Des Moines, and it’s this really beautiful photo at night of them. They’re kind of on the side of the photograph, and the only thing is that Michelle was facing forward and the president was facing away from the camera. So my boss Teddy Goff made the very good point that we should see the president’s face.
I went to our photo editor and I was like, ‘Remember when Michelle was wearing that checkered dress in Iowa?’ And she was like, ‘Yes!’
None of us looked at how the posts were doing until I opened my laptop the next morning. It had, at that point, about 3 million likes.
I think it was just a combination of the moment and just kinda lucking into a photo that people loved that I think showed the emotion and the relief.”
Listen To This President Obama-Inspired Playlist!