When I was first contacted about a possible sitting with President Barack Obama for The New Republic, I was pleased but didn’t think about it much. Until a shoot is confirmed, with a time and a location, I don’t really consider it a booking. But in the days after the initial reach out I found it pushing to the front of my brain and I started to get anxious.
The New Republic magazine was bought last spring by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes who has since been planning a major re-launch, in content, appearance and media platforms. My contact for the shoot was creative director Dirk Barnett, who was overseeing all things visual.
Since there would be many elements that I would have little influence over, I choose to focus on what I could control – the lighting and the conversation. Planning the lighting ahead of time is obviously a key thing, but being ready with something to chat about can be just as important. In the coming days, as I would fall asleep at night I would play out conversations with President Obama in my mind. We’d talk about our daughters, and I’d tell him about how my three year old refers to the stars and stripes as the “Olive country flag”, which he would find funny and charming.
As the details came in and the shoot became more concrete – I felt good and well prepared.
The President walked into the Map Room right on time, shook everyone’s hand and came over to where our seamless was set up. I saw that he was chewing gum and asked him about it. He assured me that it would not be a problem for the portrait and I told him that if it did he’d be hearing from me again.
From there we got to work, mostly in silence, and made some fine portraits. After four minutes, twenty-one seconds and eleven milliseconds (one of the WH Communications team used a stop-watch) our sitting was over.
Thank you Mr. President, and may God bless the United States of America.