Official First Family Photo – A Critical Look At The Flaws

Official First Family PortraitThe Obama’s first official family portrait was released by the White House recently.
It’s a lovely photo and seems genuine and candid. It’s a commendable representation of the First Family, but I would have expected better from Annie Leibovitz. Then too better may have been in the lot this one was selected from. “What are you talking about Geo?” Read on.

Leibovitz has always been one of my favorite photographers. I’ve been a fan of her work for the past 30 years. I’ve even copied her style a time or two with certain subjects I’ve photographed in the past. Understandably, and to her credit, Leibovitz photographs a lot of celebrities and to portray their persona accurately she’s become adept at the inclusion of props to compliment her end result and bolster the story of the photograph.

But this is the first family here. And the photograph displays some ignored or broken technical basics of photographing people.

For instance, Sasha has a wall mounted picture in the background framing her head. The angle of the entire portrait is too wide allowing well focused background distractions of all sorts to pull the viewer’s eyes all over the place. The placement of the subjects in regards to the intensity of the colors they are wearing halts the viewer’s direction after they get to Sasha. Think of where your eyes went when you first viewed the photo. The bright white shirt of the President catches your eye immediately and from there to the pretty white dress Sasha is wearing. Your eyes take a glance at Michele and Malia because their resplendent  beauty commands it, not because the subdued colors of their clothing pull you in that direction. For sure somewhere between Sasha and the First Lady though, the eyes are apt to take a detour to the white door frames, wall mounted pictures, the gold gilded white ornament and the white fireplace mantle which Leibovitz or an editor should have subtly blurred. Giving the green room that much exposure in the photograph is a distraction within itself. If the photos target story was “The First Family Relaxing In The Green Room” I would be the first to give Leibovitz mad props on having nailed it. But this is not about the Green Room.

And for the skeptics that think I’m just trying to build blog traffic behind this, taking a look at Michelle Obama’s Official First Lady portrait will put that claim to rest. There’s background in that portrait as well, but professionally blurred as to not distract from Michelle. Her stunning black dress, and radiant smile draws your eyes dead center on her, and it’s hard to leave, because there isn’t anything distracting them.  And if your eye is thinking about wandering upward, the royal blue curtain leads you right back down to Ms. Obama by starting wide at the top of the frame and narrowing directly behind her. She’s even framed within the picture by what appears to be  two presidential frames, one on each side of her. Your eyes are skillfully incarcerated on her by the vision of a skillful photographer. In short, Michele jumps out of the photograph at you and remains there. Check it out.

Michelle-Obama First Lady Official Portrait

So what’s my point? It’s this. Our first family is unique and a portrait of our nation, within themselves. Any captured photo or artist rendering of them should be of the high level of standard the family themselves command. No, it’s not just a picture, because, they’re not just a family, they are America’s family and its things I’ve noticed like this that for some reason or another tend to slip under the radar in regards to Obama. It’s as if details are an afterthought.

I think Liebovitz if given the opportunity, should capitalize on a Contingency factor, and give us something better.

As a side note. Am I the only one that thinks the earlier photo that was floating around sometimes after the election with the family in front  of the presidential seal would have been the ideal picture???

Speak on it in the comment section.


Author: Geo Gee

I'm a curious one that finds politics, social issues, and diverse progressive solutions interesting. I believe information and education are the most powerful weapons one can arm himself with. Those two dynamics alone open the doors to opportunities. I also subscribe to each one teach one for a better world for all.

8 thoughts on “Official First Family Photo – A Critical Look At The Flaws”

  1. Geo,
    You are right on again,The picture is dark and depressing to me,You would think the most powerful family in the free world would at least deserve a portrait worthy of their stature.Liebovitz should be ashamed of her herself and her commission should be donated to the NAACP.


  2. Joseph, You described it to a T. Dark and depressing, that’s just how it comes across. It’s even dimly lit.

    I like commission idea as well, but we won’t have to worry about that one, Liebovitz didn’t take any money for this shoot. At least not up front, but you can bet she will have capitalized in some form of just being associated with the First Family.


  3. I saw this family photo first on I think Yahoo somewhere, and when I read that it was taken by Leibovitz, it was very surprised. It doesn’t seem to fit her style, and you’re right, I wasn’t captivated by it. It look like a portrait photo I would take. I would have caught the frame behind Sasha’s head, because I typically look for distractions like that. But your points about the attire and other surroundings is something I overlooked. The stark contrast between the whites and the dark clothing is deeply distracting.

    Great observations. I’m new to your site, and I’ll be returning.


    1. Bakari, Thanks for taking the time to review the post and share your comments. It’s refreshing to see someone else still looks for the basics in good photography.

      Even if the family themselves had chosen this photo from a lot (as a previous poster indicated may have been the case) with Photoshop and like programs available, it could have been cleaned up.

      Thanks for the comment on the site, glad to have you and by all means return when ever you like.


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