Looking Back – Obama’s Big Day Almost 6 Months Ago

May 12, 2009 | By Anthony Behar | News

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Photo by Anthony Behar

I didn’t actually hear all of what President Obama said on the day of his inauguration, but from what I caught on film I can remember this moment with greater impact than just the memory of his words.

I had seen a couple of  photographers coming in and out of the Getty Images New York office carrying their Leicas on their shoulder, and it inspired me to do the same.

The day before the inauguration, I decided I would use film, rather than a digital camera, and I would use a Leica given to me as a gift by a photojournalist I had once worked with. Quiet, unobtrusive and discrete, it would set the tone for the kind of pictures I had in mind.

With color film already loaded, I started shooting but quickly decided to change to B&W for a more serious effect. I didn’t feel that color could add anything to the moment or the story.

I started taking pictures in the “bubble” hoping to get images of the event on the screens of the photo editors as they captioned the incoming images. In a surreal moment you were watching the event unfold more on the monitors than on TV. I briefly hesitated to take pictures when I saw Jonathan Klein (Getty Images Co-founder and CEO)  in the room, but knew he was there for the same reason as I was, to witness history.

Getty Images

Photo by Anthony Behar

Getty Images

Photo by Anthony Behar

Jonathan was totally focused on the event, quietly staring at the small TV monitor while others looked up at a larger monitor mounted on a pillar. Not much was said in the room but there was a palpable sense of excitement.

Getty Images

Photo by Anthony Behar

Getty Images

Photo by Anthony Behar

As the ceremony began, the quiet that descended on the office was filled with anticipation, and you could feel a combination of awe and relief in the air.

Some people were staring wide-eyed at the TV, others were jumping for joy, but whatever you thought of this moment you could sense it was a historical one. Like the landing on moon or to summit a once unattainable peak, this moment would leave an impression in your heart. Call it national pride, patriotism, or democracy-in-action, how this event brought people together is what I best care to remember about it.

Getty Images

Photo by Anthony Behar

After a few minutes I moved clockwise through the offices photographing the different clusters of people who had gathered around the high-mounted TV screens on the south side of the office. I continued to make my way around the office, quietly stepping between the gathered groups as not to break their concentration.

Getty Images

Photo by Anthony Behar

Getty Images

Photo by Anthony Behar

One of my favorite images is that of the four women sitting around a computer monitor watching Barack give his speech. Though one cannot see their faces, I could feel the intensity of their concentration. I moved to the big kitchen to catch another group gathered around the TV, and moved past creative through reception.

Getty Images

Photo by Anthony Behar

By the time I had made my rounds and got back to my office, Barack Obama had become the 44th President of the United States of America.

To all the wonderful people at Getty Images New York I work with, who have been so kind to allow me to take their pictures during corporate events (Winter and Summer parties – Yes! I deleted all the ones of you people dancing) I thank you once again for allowing my camera into this small, yet important, window of time and sharing your wonder and amazement. These images are not about any single individual, but the true sense of community that we have working together. It is an honor to work beside great people and practice what you love.

Anthony Behar is a digital retoucher with “Contour by Getty Images”, and has contributed to Getty Images, WireImage and Filmmagic as an event photographer.

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