Author Archives: Kira Pollack

Behind the Obama Cover: Person of the Year 2012

Last week, President Barack Obama, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2012, granted us a rare sitting with the legendary photographer Nadav Kander. We chose Kander because of his remarkable ability to capture the mood of a moment. He has photographed some of the most iconic people of our time — from Sir Paul McCartney and Brad Pitt to Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, who is also featured in this issue. The two Obama portraits appearing in the issue are the first formal portraits of the President since his re-election.

(See more: Barack Obama, 2012 Person of the Year )

As managing editor Rick Stengel writes in his editor’s letter, “We are in the midst of historic cultural and demographic changes, and Obama is both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America.” To capture that magnitude, TIME commissioned Kander, whose signature style is defined by his exquisite lighting and almost painterly touch, to make a historic cover. The last time he photographed the President was in 2009 for The New York Times Magazine.

Callie Shell for TIME

President Barack Obama with TIME’s Director of Photography, Kira Pollack, during the photo shoot in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Dec. 12, 2012.

“When photographing such a high profile individual, it’s a huge challenge to not let their high profile take over the process,” Kander says. “I wanted to make a meaningful photograph that reflected pause in a person’s life and reflect his humanity.”

Kira Pollack, Director of Photography

(Related: 48 Hours with President Obama by Callie Shell )

TIME Picks the Top Photographic Magazine Covers of 2012

The best photographs don’t always make the best covers. It takes a smart concept, a meticulously executed image, smoothly integrated typography and the combination of all those factors to create an immediate and lasting impact. Our top ten photographic covers of 2012 show exquisite use of photography.

The most notable is New York Magazine’s magnificent cover by photographer Iwan Baan of a half blacked-out Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy. It’s instantly iconic and will become one of the greatest covers of all time. In the mix is also W‘s stunning fashion cover image of Marion Cotillard, ESPN‘s high-concept “Fantasy Football” cover, depicting an NFL player in a magical forest with a unicorn, and a photojournalistic cover, the Economist’s powerful image documenting the personal toll of the conflict in Gaza.

We also decided to include two covers in the mix that were striking photo-based illustrations. An aged Obama on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek as well as a thoughtful commission by the New York Times Magazine for the visual artist Idris Kahn to reinterpret an iconic landmark on their London-themed cover.

A great cover is always a collaborative effort. To caption each of our selected covers, we spoke to a mix of editors, photo directors, art directors and photographers who took part during different stages of the creative process. In our selection, we refrained from choosing any TIME covers, though if we were to choose one, it would be Martin Schoeller’s arresting image of a mother breast-feeding her 4-year-old son, “Are You Mom Enough?”

Kira Pollack, Director of Photography

TIME Picks the Top 10 Photos of 2012

Ten percent of all of the photographs made in the entire history of photography were made last year — an astounding figure. More than ever before, thanks in part to cell phone technology, the world is engaged with photography and communicating through pictures.

Nonetheless, a great photograph will rise above all the others. The ten photographs we present here are the pictures that moved us most in 2012. They all deliver a strong emotional impact — whether they show a child mourning his father who was killed by a sniper in Syria (slide #3); a heartbreaking scene in a Gaza City morgue (slide #1); a haunting landscape of New Jersey coastline after Hurricane Sandy, a rollercoaster submerged under the tide (slide #2); or a rare glimpse of President Obama moments before he goes out on stage during a campaign rally (slide #9). We spoke to each of the photographers about their images, and their words provide the captions here.

Over the past several days, we’ve unveiled TIME’s Best Photojournalism and Best Portraits of the Year galleries on LightBox. And in the next three weeks, we will be rolling out even more end-of-year features: the Most Surprising Pictures of the Year; the Best Photo Books of the Year; the Top 10 Photographic Magazine Covers of the Year and other compelling galleries. We will also recognize TIME’s choice for the Best Wire Photographer of the Year. Senior photo editor Phil Bicker is curating many of these galleries with help from the photo team at TIME. His discerning eye has been responsible for the curation of TIME’s Pictures of the Week throughout the year, galleries that regularly present the best of the week’s images, with surprising and sometimes offbeat takes on the news.  We will round off the year on December 31 with our second-annual “365: Year in Pictures,” a comprehensive look at the strongest picture of every day of 2012.

Kira Pollack, Director of Photography

‘Home Works’ by Joakim Eskildsen

Joakim Eskildsen’s new body of work, Home Works, explores the poetry of place through the five different homes to which he has moved his family over the past six years. His pictures are painter-like, discovering different moods and seasons, a quiet thoughtfulness, an overwhelming beauty and a love of landscape. His family’s final move to a new home in Germany, just this month, will dictate the last pictures in the project.

The series began in 2005, just before his son Seraphin was born. Two years later, his daughter Rubina was born. “The whole process of having children is such an interesting thing,” he says. “They have been very inspiring to follow, and to discover the world and landscapes together with.” The landscapes are often empty but sometimes dotted with a child. In the early pictures, the children are small elements in the larger frame and as the work moves forward through time, the children take precedence over their surroundings.

One of the most exciting aspects of Eskildsen’s process is the influence that bookmaking has had on his direction. Since the beginning of his career he has integrated the bookmaking form directly into his photography process.

As an MA student in Finland, he studied with Finnish masters, Pentti Sammallahti and Jyrki Parantainen. Under their mentorship he was amazed to discover the idea that the photographer could be in charge of the whole process of making the book: from layout to typography to binding to offset printing: “The main idea was that the book itself is the art object, and not a catalog for the exhibition prints.“

Over the next four years as an MA student, Eskildsen made his first two books by hand: Nordic Signs and Bluetide. After school he published iChickenMoon with an edition of 1,800. Most recently, The Roma Journeys—his brilliant book about the European ethnic groups known as Gypsies—was published by Steidl in 2007. “The book is a very flexible format. You can work on only one book or you can print it in an edition of 11,000. Both can be equally inspiring,” he says. “There is something in this whole process which is so magical and keeps challenging me.”

Those formative years in Finland inspired a slow and thoughtful approach to his work. “I like to allow myself to work over a span of years to have a kind of relationship with the work,” he says. “I feel almost that if it is too fast, you might not get to know the pictures before it’s over.” In Home Works in particular, Eskildsen is working very closely in tandem between making the pictures and then taking time to work on layouts and juxtapositions, and to re-edit and refine and then to continue shooting. He plans to give himself two more years to capture his newest home. In this process, he says, “the vision becomes clearer”: “One of the main things I learned is that the work is only half done when you have a lot of good pictures,” he says. “One has to spend a lot of time with these images, too, and work a lot with them.”

Eskildsen’s diligence is being recognized. Steidl plans to publish Home Works in 2015, along with American Realities—about poverty in America (a project originally commissioned for this magazine)—and a third edition of Roma Journeys, both planned for 2013, as well as a re-print of Nordic Signs for 2015.

Joakim Eskildsen is a Danish photographer based in Berlin. He is best known for his book The Roma Journeys (Steidl, 2007). More of his work can be seen here.