Tag Archives: Formal Portraits

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 )

‘Americans’: Christopher Morris Captures a Nation Divided

My latest book, Americans, is the second in a series about America, even though I had no idea it would become a series when my first book, My America, was released in April 2006. That book examined Republican nationalism in the country during George W. Bush’s two terms as president. But in Americans, I’ve taken real pains to make sure there’s no political photography. There aren’t any portraits of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, and no pictures of rally signs. Instead, I sought to make an anthropological study of America—not for this week, or for this past election cycle—but a body of work that future generations could look back on to get a sense of the country’s mood.

What I found, in the eight-year period during which these photographs were made, is an America severely divided. With two long-running wars and an economy slow to recover, there is a real sense that the country is in a depressed state. Traveling across America in several road trips, I found that the mood among citizens wasn’t upbeat or lively; people are really polarized in their political positions, yet everyone is concerned about the economy and what that means for the welfare of their families.

The book contains only a handful of formal portraits. The rest is reportage—pictures taken when people were alone, pensive in thought. I looked for these moments to convey this feeling of loss and depression that I felt across the nation.

Americans recently headed to the polls to elect their next president, and on Election Day eve, there wasn’t a clear frontrunner. In fact, many polls showed voters divided near evenly between Obama and Romney—a poignant indicator that despite the winner, Americans may very well continue to be divided.

Christopher Morris is a contract photographer for TIME and represented by VII

Americans, published by Steidl, will be available in early December.