Story behind a photograph
It’s been almost four years since I took this photograph. I was involved in a documentary about the NAACP as the country’s oldest civil rights organization. The producers has pursued Candidate Obama for an interview during the course of the 2008 campaign season. In fact we were shooting at the NAACP convention that summer in Cincinnati for that project when suddenly we were informed that the secret service were coming round to do a sweep of our location. Candidate Obama came within two rooms of ours, but we couldn’t get him to sit for us at that time. Fast forward to just before Thanksgiving - the producers got a call that if we made our way to Chicago right after Thanksgiving, there was an 85% chance we would get the interview. Twenty minutes at most.
We headed to Chicago. The President Elect’s transition team was stationed in a State Office building and the security was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. After getting every piece of our equipment passed through scanners - a process that took almost two hours - we set up for our interview and waited for President Obama to come and take his seat. We still weren’t guaranteed an interview but at least we were in the same building.
Our patience was rewarded when we were given the five minute warning. Everyone assumed their positions in readiness and sure enough in five minutes President Obama walked into our room.
I consider this photograph a snapshot considering the conditions under which it was taken. I was not there to shoot still photos, but to shoot a video interview so that was my primary focus. I had to make a calculation for myself between shaking the President’s hand and taking whatever photos I could. I couldn’t do both. I opted for the latter. I wanted to own something more permanent than a handshake, something that belonged to me for a life time.
I managed to fire off no more than ten pictures, most of them of him in the chair and a couple of him standing. The ones of him standing are slightly on the blurry side, but there is one that I love for just that reason.
When I got a minute to look at the pictures after we were done with our shoot, it stuck me how intensely focused the look on his face was. There was a ring of sadness coupled with a burning desire to get to work about those photos. Given what we now know about how bad the financial collapse of 2008 really was and how far in a ditch we were, it’s no wonder that’s what came across in the pictures. I got the distinct impression that Candidate Obama was not entirely aware of how dire the situation that President Obama was tasked with fixing.
It’s 2012 and in another sixty days or so we will get a chance to revisit the choice of who continues to guide us through murky waters. For me the choice is a no brainer.
PS: I did eventually get to shake the President’s hand on another assignment in 2009, so I guess my instinct in Chicago to go for the photo-op, was the right one for my sensibilities.
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- 21stcenturysocratic said: #seriousness
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- auradacity-of said: once again your beautiful eyes… Thanks for sharing this insightful story ;)
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