There’s a photo I saw just recently, though originally taken in 2014, that stopped me in my tracks:

As told at a blog called Reel Foto, this picture was taken by White House photographer Pete Souza during a 3D portrait project by the Smithsonian Museum. So many things instantly flashed across my mind when I saw this photo.

  • The perfect framing of Obama, the symmetry of the lights, and background.
  • The idea that Obama is having a modern, technologically advanced, digital “portrait” taken while seated before an old portrait painting of a sitting Abraham Lincoln — and the symbolism isn’t lost of it being Lincoln for our country’s first African American President.
  • The cold, blue light of LED labs illuminating the subject, in contrast to the antique candle holders on the ledge behind.
  • The juxtaposition of an array of harsh lights spread out before Obama, who is seated alone and vulnerable. It evokes to me the intense scrutiny that President faces, from all corners, and the loneliness that the burden of responsibility bears onto the person serving the office.
  • Obama’s back is to the camera, we cannot his face or read his emotion. To me this conveys the often inscrutable nature of all the decisions and actions of a modern  Presidency.

It has easily become one of my favorite photos from Obama’s eight years in office.