In honor of Obama’s historic inauguration tomorrow, the New York Times Magazine asked Nadav Kander to take on an ambitious project of photographing portraits of Obama’s new cabinet appointees and members of his staff that played a vital role in his election and transition in to office. Their goal was to go beyond the usual formal portrait shoot and integrate aspects in to the images that speak to the true nature of the subjects. From Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. holding a basketball to Ken Salazar’s cowboy hat, the final 52 images will make up the largest collection by one photographer that the New York Times has ever published. Many people are holding the now infamous Blackberries that have been widely reported as being such an integral part of Obama’s communication through out his campaign and transition.
Go here to see all of the images, and to listen to a the photographer Nadav Kander and Times Magazine Director of Photography Kathy Ryan discuss the project.
Behind Obama’s People – Editor’s Letter by Gerald Marzoratti
EARLY IN 1976, with both the post-Watergate presidential election and the bicentennial celebration in mind, Rolling Stone approached Richard Avedon, America’s most celebrated portrait photographer of the time, with the idea of spending the year shooting pictures on the campaign trail. Avedon had other ideas, or, better, a bigger idea: To photograph the men and women he understood to constitute the political leadership of the United States. The result, published in Rolling Stone’s Oct. 21, 1976, issue and taking up the entire feature well of the magazine, was a portfolio of 73 black-and-white portraits — formal, frank in a stylized way and, page after page after page, thoroughly absorbing.
It was with that project very much in mind that The Times Magazine asked Nadav Kander — one of the more original and highly regarded portraitists at work just now — if he would like to photograph the administration of Barack Obama as it was being assembled. We, like many of our readers — like most Americans, it seems fair to say — sensed something eventful and potentially far-reaching about the election and the challenges the new president and his team would immediately face. Why not take account of this with portraits of those whose character and temperament and bearing may well prove consequential in the coming months and years?
The result is what we have titled “Obama’s People” — 52 full-page color portraits of the vice president-elect and the incoming president’s advisers, aides and cabinet secretaries-designate (some of whom may have been confirmed or may have withdrawn by the time you read this), along with those legislators who are likely to prove influential in helping to usher into law what the new administration sets out to do. (President-elect Obama declined to pose for a formal picture.) The portraits were taken in mid-December and earlier this month in Chicago and Washington. The magazine’s editor of photography, Kathy Ryan, along with two members of her staff, Kira Pollack and Stacey Baker, organized and oversaw the sessions. (To get a glimpse behind the camera, see the magazine’s back page.) Matt Bai, who has been the magazine’s chief political writer through the last two presidential-election cycles, drew up the list of whom to photograph and also wrote the elegant essay that serves as an overture to the issue and the moment. But Kander’s portfolio was never intended to be any sort of definitive representation of who mattered in and around the White House at the dawn of the Obama era. That will be the job of history. Kander was shooting in the conditional.