Kent Photographer Lobbies for Presidential Portrait

James Vaughan starts email, media campaign to get Barack Obama to stop at his Kent studio

James Vaughan is ambitious to say the least.

The Kent photographer started sending emails, tweets and making phone calls last week in an effort to photograph President Barack Obama's portrait while he visits Kent today for a campaign stop.

Vaughan said he's been sending tweets to White House staffers and calling local and regional campaign officials.

"The best break I've gotten was when Congressman (Tim) Ryan's campaign manager, Wiley Runnestrand, contacted me" Monday, Vaughan said. "We spoke on the phone and he said that Ryan had contacted the (White House) on my behalf and also spoke with some of the on-the-road campaign personnel. The word was that the idea was actually being considered."

Vaughan's goal is to get the president to visit his home studio on North Willow Street for a portrait session either before or after his speech at Kent State University.

The photographer's art has roots in Chicago, but he's made a name for himself locally with portraits of some influential Northeast Ohio residents including Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic and University of Akron President Louis Proenza.

Vaughan said he thinks he could take a better portrait than the White House photo staff members, who are typically photojournalists.

"I have studied the wonderful photos by White House photographer Pete Souza of President Obama," he said. "It is clear the president likes to get out among the 'common-folk'. He's always stopping in at some ice cream stand or local restaurant. So why not a local, Midwest artist?"

Even if Vaughan doesn't get to take the president's portrait, the effort won't be a complete loss.

"I was asked to do Congressman Ryan's portrait in November after the election," he said. "I realize that asking the president to come to me at my studio on North Willow Street may require a few logistical twists and turns. But it has been 100 years since a U.S. president has been in Kent, and he'll probably only be a half-mile away."


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