July 2014

Barack Obama, 2007 © Dawoud Bey, Courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery

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Barack Obama by Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey’s photograph of the man who would soon be president was taken on a Sunday afternoon in early 2007, at Barack and Michele Obama’s Hyde Park home. The portrait is at once stately and informal. Obama’s hands are folded gracefully in his lap. He wears an elegant suit and white shirt, but no tie. He stares intensely into the camera.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography had commissioned Bey the year before to take a portrait of a notable Chicagoan. He had known the Obamas for several years, and saw them periodically at social gatherings. Impressed with Obama’s keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, Bey sensed a “growing air of expectancy” about him.

“When I was asked who I wanted to photograph,” Bey said, ‘it took me but a second to decide that I wanted to photograph him.”

Bey posed Obama at the…