President Barack Obama for BusinessWeek

obama_cover_small copy

There are assignments…and then there are assignments. Last Friday afternoon I had just finished a location scout and was heading up to my place in Connecticut when I got a phone call from BusinessWeek…..Director of Photography Ronnie Weil, Art Director Andrew Horton and Photo Editor Sarah Morse were on the speaker phone and they obviously had something big to tell me. All at once, they practically screamed, “We’ve got ten minutes with the President on Monday…do you wanna do the shoot?!!”. I think I paused for a fraction of a second and thought I was getting punked…then I said “OF COURSE!!!”.

The next few hours took us all on a bit of a roller coaster ride…..first we went from half the editorial staff of the magazine wanting to come along, while I would bring two assistants and a few tons of gear for the intense, overly complex formal cover situation. Then, as we learned more details of what kind of access the White House would allow, it appeared that I might have to go in paparazzi style…just me and a single camera bag going into the Oval Office to document the Q & A, with no time to do an extra set up. But in the end I was able to get Bo to assist me and Ronnie was coming to produce, run defense and feed me Klonopin to calm my nerves. Steve Adler, the Editor in Chief and Washington Bureau Chief Jane Sasseen would be asking the questions and it was up to me to come up with not only a killer cover image, but additional portraits of the President to illustrate the story. We had hopes to still get that second cover shot, but the main focus had to be to photograph the interview in such a way that we could walk away with exceptional cover art.

Bo and Ronnie waiting it out in the White House Pressroom
bo_ronnie

Even though this would be my fourth time in the White House, you can never foresee how things will come together on the day of a shoot like this. In fact, the same day we were shooting, one of my old assistants, Charlie Samuels, was supposed to get his own session with the President a few hours before us…but his shoot was cancelled at the last minute. As if I didn’t have enough on my mind, when he texted me that his shoot was nuked all I could think was, “Please God, let things work out for us!”.

So with a couple of hours to go before our ten minutes, we got to horse around in the Pressroom…..

Your New White House Press Director!
brad_pressroom

And we even got to sit in on a press briefing (click on image for full-size)…..
pressroom_mosaic

Ronnie looking extremely professional…..
ronnie_pressroom

But eventually we were ushered into the West Wing through the rabbit warren-like maze that surrounds the Oval Office. After a brief introduction, Steve and Jane immediately began the interview and I got started by shoving Bo right in the middle of things for a white-balance test shot…..

obama_light_test

And then a funny thing happened…our ‘ten minutes’ somehow got stretched to more than half an hour! I still didn’t get a chance to do a set-up portrait, but the extra time really allowed me to focus on getting some truly amazing and expressive shots while the interview went on.

obama_interview005

_BO_0023

_BO_0093

_BO_0190

…and here are a few pages from today’s BusinessWeek…..

TOC copy

opener copy

But of course, the fun had to end. The press handlers gave the President the high sign and our big adventure came to an end…but not before we got our grip & grin photos with the Most Powerful Man in the Free World!!!

First, he grabbed Ronnie and pulled her close…
obama_ronnie

…while I got the more traditional smile and a handshake…..
obama_brad

Don’t let anyone tell ya photographing the President ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!

obama_smile

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56 thoughts on “President Barack Obama for BusinessWeek

  1. Well it goes without saying that we are envious. You’re not a washed up old has-been after all. Totally fucking awesome dude. I’ll pick up the issue post haste.

  2. Great Pix. What an amazing experience that must have been. You are looking very “Senatorial” in your suit might add. Who did you borrow it from?

  3. Hey Brad ! Kudos for you !!
    (The next time you make an impressive appearance, let me know…if I can’t dress you, I could at least get you a fab tie.)

    Hey…it was Lacroix, Darling…..Understated and perfect!!!

    Love the twosome of the Pres and Ronnie !! What a nice smile she has.

    Finally, thanks to you, I now realize how grey our leader is.

  4. Wow, awesome Brad! He sure is looking more gray…you really picked up the gray hairs.

  5. Impressive BJ – nice going-you make us all proud – Bob & Eunice must be-mailing everyone they know with this link.

    Adios

    d

    You got it…..I’m on the phone with them now and I think they’re impressed!

  6. You did a great job for us, Brad. Don’t be surprised if Michelle calls you for a print of that last, smiling shot. I think that’s one of the most personable shots of Obama that anyone’s ever taken.

    Andrew Horton
    Art Director
    Business Week

  7. Great stuff! After eight long years in exile, it’s nice to see that Canadians are once again permitted such unfettered access to POTUS. Viva Obama! Viva BT!

  8. Congrats on winning our ‘race’ to photograph the President! Me? – I felt like I went to the moon but couldn’t step outside! You and I must have been 100 feet from each other when I called to tell you the rug had been pulled on my shoot. Thanks for mentioning me in your blog and GREAT SHOTS! Looking forward to your Christmas card. 

  9. Awesome, Brad. So that’s why you weren’t around to throw back a few cold ones with me!

  10. Obama has been wearing the same watch for awhile. The birthday present from his secret service. Jorg Gray chrono with secret service logo can be bought at the Secret Service gift shop in washington.

  11. This has to be on the list of Top 5 Coolest Things Brad’s Ever Done. That last smiling shot is so good, Shepard Fairey is bound to use it for his next illustrated poster… and then you’ll have to sue him.

  12. Good day eh! Ya even us up here in the Great White North are impressed. Great shots Brad………doin us proud!!

  13. Nice….very nice. Congratulations on doing such a great job and making it all look so good!

  14. What lens did you use and did you also use a flash?

    Wow! I actually wasn’t planning on a tech discussion, but OK…….we shot the whole thing available light, ISO 400, hand-held, on a Canon 1Ds MKIII…and aside from a couple of wide-angle shots with the 20-35mm f2.8, everything was with the 85mm f1.2…wide open!

    Class dismissed!

    BT

  15. Hey, Brad-

    Long-time fan of your work, first-time reader of your blog. I was so happy to find out you are blogging. (Path = light-test.com -> your portfolio site-> this blog.)

    I would love to blurb you on my site and point a lot of new readers to you, but many of them will just be a one-night stand if you have not turned on your RSS feeds. Whaddya say?

    Best,
    David Hobby
    Strobist.com

    p.s. And please … while we’re at it … could we make it a fulllllllllll feed? (w/apologies to Lyle Lovett.)

  16. What wonderful images. I agree with one of the previous blogs that think these are the most personable shots of President Obama I have seen. You have such talent, congrats.

  17. I like the photos, but why is there such a heavy blue cast? And they look oversharpened, or overly contrasty or something.

    Blue cast? I dunno what blue cast you speak of…I’m working on color-calibrated monitors and I kinda think they all have a warm, if sightly desaturated, painterly look to them. And as to oversharpening, I can guarantee that these images haven’t seen one bit of unsharp masking…but I will admit to a few other Photoshop contrast adjustments, as I use in all of my photographs, but no extra ‘sharpening’, per se.

    In case you were wondering, I don’t do ‘real’…..if you’re looking to tag what I do, my style can be best described as hyper-reality. I don’t profess to being a photojournalist and therefore don’t adhere to any kind of ‘rules’ that photojournalists may feel the need to follow. That said, my photographs of the President have received the least amount of post manipulation of anything I’ve shot in years. I left the moles, the wrinkles, the freckles…..all of it! And no…I didn’t change his hair, either! The gray hair is all his and it comes with the job!

  18. I came here through a link on Reddit.com and I’m really glad I did. This is a great photo essay and instructional to photographers like myself. I really enjoy seeing how “the big dogs” do what they do and the behind the scenes on how tense things were or what you were thinking. Thanks much for this series.

    Peace,
    Boris

  19. Wow..I cant imagine how I will react with the Prez’s arm around me :))

    Do you have any control over what photo your editor pick for the cover? I really like the last one since I think it conveys his image so well.

    Well, actually…that last photo is simply a retouched version of the photograph chosen by the photo editor as an opener for the whole package…

    https://damnuglyphotography.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/opener-copy.jpg

    https://damnuglyphotography.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/obama_smile.jpg

    Ronnie knew the “smiling Obama” shot was the perfect shot to open the story with. It wasn’t until much later when we were trying a few versions where I dropped the background out for a few cover mock-ups that the image you liked materialized…same shot, less background! BT

  20. Are these line drawings or contrast-abused photographs? I can’t tell!

    Oh, they’re certainly contrast-abused…thanks for noticing! BT

  21. hey Brad T..
    Long time since the ‘Enrico-assisting’ days mate! We’re not old-timers by any means and must say, looking excellent as the Press Sec.! and congrats on some real personable shots.. would like to see more here, no doubt a real great experience. Shows everything’s still possible and shooting is where we should be …keep it going man! Hope to catch up one day when we’re back in NY.

  22. whooopty-doo BT! Amazing! Love the last shot especially. My comment on contrast/unsharp masking… for this shoot especially! It’s serious “business”, not a glamour shoot. lol
    Congrats dude, your chest must be all puffed up and shizzz.
    Your old buddy “Stine”

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