By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – With just three weeks left before President Barack Obama leaves office, a Colorado photographer is coming out with her third book tracing the historic journey of the country’s 44th president.
It’s called “Defining The Times” and there’s a story behind this story.
Few people have followed President Obama as closely as Patricia Duncan, who first began photographing him in 2006 for a black newspaper, when the little-known senator from Illinois came here to campaign.
“I didn’t have a clue who Barack Obama was,” Duncan said.
Over the next year, she would cover nearly a dozen visits he made to Colorado – campaigning here more than any another state in the country. She would take hundreds of pictures, record every speech and release a book that is, in some ways, as much her story as it is his.
“And I started and I quit. And I started and I quit. Why? Because that’s the kind of person I was. I was a procrastinator. I didn’t have self-confidence,” she said.
Like the nation’s first African American president, Duncan, too, faced long odds. She didn’t go to college, didn’t have much money, and says she’d never finished a project in her life. But in 2010, she completed “A Defining Moment” days before her mother passed away.
“And she said ‘Oh Trisha I knew, I just knew, this time you would finish it.’ I remember when I got that book all I could do is cry.”
The book — which has pictures you won’t find anywhere else and speeches no longer in print — received an award from the NAACP, is in the Library of Congress and is used in high school and college classrooms.
“It’s all about the historic journey of Barack Obama in his words.”
But some stories, Duncan says, aren’t captured in the book. For example, she says the president preferred to open his own car door.
“They (the Secret Service) open the door for him to go in the car and, no, he goes all the way around and opens the door himself. Always. Always.”
She says while she’s only met him briefly once, she feels she knows him.
“He’s very expressive and in 10 years of photographing him I’ve watched his expressions change — change to the point of, at the end, he really wasn’t afraid to show how he was feeling inside. It’s been my defining moment, too.
“He gave me hope. He gave me validation. He gave me that ‘You can do anything Patricia Duncan.'”
She says she shares that same message of hope with students.
“You can do anything in this world if you work hard, you keep God in your life and, more than anything, you have self-belief.”
Duncan’s first book traces Barack Obama from 2006 until his inauguration in 2008. Her second book includes his early years as president. She’s now working on a third release on his entire presidency.
She says the president has copies of her book and, while she hasn’t received any feedback from him, her first two books sold out.
Duncan’s book “Defining the Times” can be purchased through the website definingthetimes.com.