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Behind the Obama/Brewer picture, a very attentive photographer

Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP

(left) President Barack Obama talks with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer after arriving at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport on Wednesday. (right) Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer points during an intense conversation with President Barack Obama.

Earlier today we published a photograph by photojournalist Haraz Ghanbari from the Associated Press showing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and President Barack Obama engaged in an apparently tense exchange on an airport tarmac shortly after Air Force One touched down outside Phoenix on Wednesday.

Eduardo Suñol, Sr. Executive Producer for TelemundoNews, caught up to Ghanbari by phone this afternoon and asked him to recount what he had witnessed on Wednesday.

It was one of those shots that takes a second to grab and stays around forever. Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer pointing her finger at President Obama’s face, like the teacher reprimanding the student who didn’t turn his homework on time.

The picture was taken by Haraz Ghanbari, a seven year veteran photographer of the Associated Press who had just stepped off Air Force One and was standing 50 feet away by the plane’s left wing.

“She had a letter on her hands and through my camera lens I could read it said `Mr. President”, Ghanbari told Telemundo News. “I have never seen anybody given a letter to the president at the bottom of the steps”, he said.

While all the other photographers took off for `the ropes’- an area assigned to the guests, and onlookers on the tarmac- Ghanbari stayed around sensing something might unravel.

“Typically those conversations last 30 seconds”, he said. “They’ll say, `Hey Mr. President, Welcome!’ or whatever. But I had my radar up. I knew her stance on immigration and his stance on immigration, so I thought this could be interesting. I just stayed there with my camera.”

President Obama got off the plane, ran downstairs and after shaking the governor’s hand the exchange began.

Ghanbari, with his Cannon Mark IV camera on hand, says he couldn’t hear what they were saying to each other, but concluded it was an “animated conversation”.

“I saw Governor Brewer with her finger up like she was making an emphasis on something”, he said. “Then I took the picture. It took like a second to take”. 

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's tense conversation with President Barack Obama permeated the media. White House officials say the incident was overblown. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.