Barack Obama – 44th President of the United States
Last week, President Barack Obama appeared at the Denk Prooducties Forward Thinking Leadership seminar in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
I had the distinct honour of being only one of two photographers that were allowed to capture the President on stage. And while I’ve now photographed a King, 2 Princes, 2 Princesses, 1 Duke, 1 Dutchess, and countless politicians, this was the one where I actually got a bit nervous for.
We were operating under a standard high profile stage shoot. What this means, similar to photographing a rock band, you get the first five minutes or three songs. Whichever comes first. So the pressure was really on to not only get some great shots, but to get the “winner”. The one where the subject is razor sharp, preferable in action, and demonstrating some kind of a personal trait.
To my standards, I believe this one absolutely nails it. The hand gesture, the slight “I know something you don’t” smile, and those eyes that have seen the world in a way that only a President can.
One of the fun facts about photographing a President, about two weeks before the gig, I had to submit my details for a secret service background check. Likewise, the day of the President’s arrival, secret service were there bright and early to greet me at the entrance giving me and my camera gear a twice over. Literally, they asked me a series of questions twice. I’m assuming this is meant to intimidate and make sure that your story lines up. In other words, this was a no joke gig, and the stakes were high.
The President’s entry to the building was closely guarded and there’s no way I was even going to get close to him. However, after his talk, I hung around backstage and was able to get a word in while he was coming down the stairs on the way out the door. I told him that I came from upstate New York and that I’m now living in Europe. He stopped, shook my hand and said hello. I told him that I had a small portrait studio set up just around the corner. He smiled and said, “Sure, let’s do it” … at which point his assistant jumped in and mentioned that they had to go, as the President had an appointment. Not missing a beat, I replied that I understood, but shoved a card in the assistant’s hand. Mr. Obama had a look at it, and replied, “Nice picture.” I smiled, nodded, and added, “Next time we meet then?”. He chuckled and said, “Tenacity. I like it. Next time.”
He smiled again, and with that … was out the door.