Newseum Photos Snap Obamamania

Posted May 8, 2009 at 3:34pm

Museums around town can’t get enough of President Barack Obama — not just the president himself, but also the photographs documenting his rise. The newest of those opened last week at the Newseum.

“FOTOBAMA: Picturing the President,— opening on the heels of the National Museum of American History’s exhibit “I Do Solemnly Swear: Photographs of the 2009 Presidential Inauguration,— features the winning images from a photo contest sponsored by the Newseum and FotoWeek DC, a nonprofit organization that promotes photography. The exhibit displays 100 professional and amateur photographs of the Obama campaign and inauguration.

“It’s more than just the images,— said Cathy Trost, director of exhibit development at the Newseum. “It’s the stories that Americans tell through their photographs.—

The winning photos were selected from a pool of 15,000 entries by a panel of judges that included Vincent Amalvy, photo director for North and South America at Agence France-Presse, and Dennis Brack, president of the White House News Photographers Association.

The exhibit is broken into amateur and professional categories. The first grouping shows Obama on the campaign trail and on election night, while the second shows the inaugural festivities. A first- and second-place winner was chosen from each category as well as one best-in-show prize.

“To me what sets this exhibit apart is that it isn’t just the work of professional photographers but citizen photographers and it really captures the exuberance— of the day, Trost said.

The best-in-show photograph shows Obama being hugged by a crowd of people at a victory speech in St. Paul, Minn., after winning a June primary. Taken by Chris Carlson of the Associated Press, the photo shows the back of Obama’s head, just barely visible, as eager supporters reach to touch and hug him.

“It kind of captures the rock star quality of the guy,— Brack said in a caption accompanying the photo.

Other photos in the exhibit show Obama shedding a tear as he talks about the death of his grandmother the day before the general election, crowds at Howard University celebrating Obama’s victory, and a man crowd-surfing in front of the White House on election night.

The photos are displayed on the sixth floor of the Newseum against the backdrop of the National Mall, making it easy for visitors to see the images of Inauguration Day and then look out the window to see where they took place. One example is an image of the new president and first lady waving to the crowd as they walk down Pennsylvania Avenue at a location just a few blocks from the museum.

The photos “are so representative of the sense that many people have that he was the people’s candidate and the people wanted a piece of that with their cameras,— Trost said.