Obama's People

18 April - 31 August 2009

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Chamberlain Square
B3 3DH

Capturing the spirit of the moment, a new exhibition of 52 photographic portraits of the leading men and women in Barack Obama’s government, shot on the eve of the presidential inauguration.

In the heady days of last year’s election campaign, world-renowned photographer Nadav Kander was commissioned to take portraits of the President-elect’s new government as it was being assembled. The result is Obama’s People, a compelling photographic document that is both timeless and testament to a critical turning point in US political history.

From familiar faces like that of Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to Reggie Love, Obama’s Personal Aide, the personalities of the sitters leap from each of the 52 images. Some pose as they are, others with their own props: Eugene Kang the President’s Special Assistant, holds up his telephone notebook; Ken Salazar, Secretary-Designate of the Interior Department, sports a Stetson.

Now, for the first time, these extraordinary photographic images will be on show to the public at BirminghamMuseum & Art Gallery. Visitors will walk through the gallery of portraits into a 'corridor of power', illuminated by lightboxes that depict the five Washington monuments.

“I’m honoured to be part of this historical moment and very pleased that these portraits will now be on public view,” says London-based Kander, one of the most original and highly regarded photographers of our time, who works across advertising and fine art practices, and who was commissioned for the shoot by The New York Times Photo Editor Kathy Ryan.

The exhibition was proposed by Rhonda Wilson, Director of Birmingham-based photographic development agency, Rhubarb-Rhubarb, who first saw the images on-line and contacted Kander’s London gallery, Flowers. “Though being first with this particular project is hugely significant, it’s about other things too – the fit with the diversity of Birmingham and West Midlands, the power of photography to evidence possibility and political change at this historic moment and the opportunity for thousands of people to see this aspirational project, furthering Birmingham’s ambition to be an international centre for creative excellence”, says Wilson.

The project has been made possible by a partnership between Nadav Kander, Rhubarb-Rhubarb, Flowers Gallery, Birmingham City Council, Advantage West Midlands, UK Trade and Investment, Staffordshire University, Idea Generation, Heavy Object and All Trade Printers, assisted by Marketing Birmingham.

Cllr Mike Whitby, Leader, Birmingham City Council City said: "As the twin city of Barack Obama's hometown, Chicago, it is fitting that Birmingham has been chosen to host the world premiere of this historic exhibition. This is a genuine honour for the City of Birmingham, and speaks not only to our close links with America, and Chicago in particular, but also our growing reputation for art and culture on the world stage. Nadav Kander's fascinating collection of photographs perfectly captures a remarkable chapter in American, and indeed global, history and I am not surprised that the images have already attracted worldwide attention"

David Noble, Course Leader, BA (Hons) Photography, Staffordshire University commented: “We are absolutely delighted to take on the role of educational partner in Rhubarb-Rhubarb’s latest exciting venture – for us, it represents the opportunity to be involved with a project that encapsulates precisely the values we associate with photography. These images communicate, intensely and vividly, the spirit of a historic moment that is filled with new hope, in a way that cannot be achieved in any other medium.”

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: "It is fitting that a photographic exhibition on a new president of the United States should premiere in a city which is regenerating itself and becoming a modern, upbeat centre of business and culture. The Chamber is certain that the exhibition will attract a huge amount of interest and be a major success."

Roger Allonby, Head of Tourism & Culture at Advantage West Midlands commented;” Tourism is worth £6 billion to the regional economy and is the fourth largest industry in the region, this is because the Heart of England, West Midlands region is home to a fantastic and diverse range of cultural, tourism and leisure attractions. Therefore we are delighted to support this exhibition of international significance, which will attract interest from throughout the world and promote the region as an exciting place in which to work, live, invest and visit.”