The 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.
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.