Moe Spencer-Obama-Democratic Nomination-2008-Justin Sullivan-Getty Images-82575456

Behind the lens: Finding raw emotion at Obama’s 2008 nomination

August 24, 2012 | By Justin Sullivan | News, Photography, Photojournalism

The 2008 presidential election was a historical event. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battled through the primary season to become either the first woman or African American to be a presidential nominee.  I had the pleasure of covering both Obama and Clinton during the year, but made this picture that captured the emotion of the campaign at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

The photo of Moe Spencer was taken on the floor of the convention the day it was announced that Barack Obama would officially be named the Democratic nominee for president. It was a historic moment for the nation and the African American community. Mr. Spencer’s emotional release captured the importance of the moment.

Moe Spencer-Obama-Democratic Nomination-2008-Justin Sullivan-Getty Images-82575456

Moe Spencer cries after the nomination of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) as the Democratic candidate for president on day three of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) at the Pepsi Center August 27, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.Ob ama will be officially be nominated as the Democratic candidate for U.S. president on the last day of the four-day convention. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


It isn’t always easy to make a unique photograph at a convention because there are so many photographers who cover the event. Usually when someone wears a funny hat or does something out of the ordinary, there are often several cameras around. I got lucky when I stumbled upon Mr. Spencer being hugged by a friend as tears rolled down his cheeks. It was just me, not the usual gaggle of cameras.

I like that this photo really sums up how important the 2008 election was and how emotionally invested people were. It isn’t your typical campaign picture, but I think it really tells the story.

Editor’s note: Justin Sullivan was born in Los Angeles and studied to be a paramedic before deciding to pursue photojournalism in 1994. A self-taught photographer, Justin worked as a freelancer for local San Francisco newspapers before getting hired to work on staff at the San Francisco Examiner in 2000, then later at the San Francisco Chronicle that same year.  Justin later returned to freelance, shooting primarily for the Associated Press, Reuters and Getty Images and numerous newspapers across the country until he joined Getty Images as a staff photographer in February 2003. In the coming years, he would cover a wide range of events from the World Series to the conflict in Israel and Palestine, the 2004 and 2008 election campaign and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Justin’s award-winning work has appeared in magazines and newspapers around the world. For more election coverage from Getty Images, visit:

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