Portrait of Barack Obama by Martin Schoeller

Photographic portrait of Barack Obama, just face, staring forward into camera
Barack Obama / Martin Schoeller, 2004 / Digital C-print / Collection of the artist, courtesy Hasted Hunt, New York City / © Martin Schoeller


Every Thursday evening, the National Portrait Gallery presents “Face-to-Face,” a talk about selected portraits on view in the gallery. As part of this regular series, Anne Goodyear, who is assistant curator of prints and drawings at NPG, discussed this portrait of Barack Obama by photographer Martin Schoeller.  The portrait is on display in the recently opened exhibition "Portraiture Now: Feature Photography."

Martin Schoeller photographed Barack Obama for a December 2004 feature on “Men of the Year,” in Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ), where a variant of this photograph appeared.  Reflecting upon the success of his address at the 2004 Democratic convention, Obama, who would go on to win the presidential election in 2008, observed: “The reason you do this stuff is not to . . . get your face in a magazine . . . You do this stuff because you care about the epic struggle to make America what it can be.”

A native of Germany, Martin Schoeller, who now lives and works in New York, honed his skills by working with Annie Leibovitz.  He has exhibited his portraits internationally and has received numerous awards. Schoeller’s photographs have appeared in many prominent magazines, including the New Yorker, Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ), Vanity Fair, and Rolling Stone.

>> Listen to Anne Goodyear’s Face-to-Face talk on Barack Obama (33:26)

To view more works by Martin Schoeller, and the other artists featured in "Portraiture Now: Feature Photography," be sure to see the online exhibition.  You can learn more about Schoeller’s portrait of Obama in this article from Voice of America. And listen to Martin Schoeller in this audio slideshow from the New Yorker.

The next Face-to-Face talk is this Thursday, January 8, when Anne Goodyear will discuss a portrait of Cindy Sherman, also by Martin Schoeller.  The talk runs from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.  January 8 will also feature a special noon-time addition of Face-to-Face, when Warren Perry speaks about the portrait of Elvis Presley by Ralph Cowan.  Visitors meet the presenter in the museum’s F Street lobby and then walk to the appropriate gallery.

Photograph by Voice of America, taken by David Byrd.