'Time' Photographer Captures Obama Moments President-elect Obama and his wife, Michelle, sent their daughters off to the first day at their new school Monday morning in Washington, D.C. One of the people capturing the intimate moment was Time magazine photographer Callie Shell, who has been snapping photos of Obama since 2006.
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'Time' Photographer Captures Obama Moments

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'Time' Photographer Captures Obama Moments

'Time' Photographer Captures Obama Moments

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The Obama family has officially moved to Washington, D.C., now, and the transition team has released a photograph of an intimate Obama family moment, a moment that happened this morning. The president-elect and his wife, Michele, are sending their daughters off for their first day of school in Washington. The pictures were taken by photographer Callie Shell of Time magazine, and afterwards she described the scene to us.

Ms. CALLIE SHELL (Photographer, Time Magazine): Yeah, he was just trying to make them laugh. I mean, you know, he is saying, you're going to a new school. You're both really bright. Don't worry about getting everything right. Don't be afraid to answer the questions. And he goes, you guys are great. So just be you.

NORRIS: Callie Shell is one of a handful of photographers who has had personal access to the Obama family. She's been covering Mr. Obama for Time magazine since 2006. Her photos are now featured in a new book, "President Obama: The Path to The White House." I asked her to look back to the days when she started taking pictures of the future president.

Ms. SHELL: Well, actually, the beginning of 2006, I was covering him on the Hill, and then I went out on the road. He was helping state politicians campaign. And so it was the president-elect, a driver, and myself.

NORRIS: Just the three of you.

Ms. SHELL: Just the three of us.


Ms. SHELL: So there's a photograph where he's at a truck stop, a rest stop. And he went in, and he came back out, and this couple pulled up, and they're from Illinois. And they're, you know, Senator, Senator. And I love this picture because he is just reaching into the car, and behind it you see the fields and you see a truck. And it means more if you do the whole campaign because that photograph and that life doesn't exist anymore.

NORRIS: Yeah, that moment's gone.

Ms .SHELL: He's not going to - I mean, he made a cell phone call on the side of the road, and then he talked to this couple. And there's nobody around. There are no agents, there's no press, there's no motorcade - just him.

NORRIS: Now, I've got the book with me, and we've seen many of your pictures...

Ms. SHELL: Time will be so excited.

NORRIS: Over time in Time magazine. And just quickly, I'd love to take us inside the scene if you could. There is one picture that was taken in June of 2008, and Barack Obama is on an elevator, and he is surrounded by members of his inner circle. And what's interesting in this picture is the contrast between his expression and all the people who are around him. You see Michelle Obama, and you see Eric Whitaker, and you see Penny Pritzker, and you see Valerie Jarrett. They all have this look of expectation on their face, and he looks like he is in an altogether different place. What's the message there?

Ms. SHELL: Well, this was the night he had clinched the nomination, and you know, my editors were all going, ah, you know, everybody is looking for this high-five picture, and he is not really a high-five person. I knew there was not going to be this emotional moment because I knew that he is a person who until the very day of the election never let his guard down. So I actually have to admit, I was looking for a picture where he just looked at peace. And I love freight elevators because nobody can go anywhere.

NORRIS: I was going to ask how big this elevator was because there are a lot of people on that elevator.

Ms. SHELL: It's big. Yeah, there are. I love freight elevators. Once you get on an elevator, you can't go anywhere. And we got on the elevator, and I knew I had - and he just crossed his arms. And it wasn't like, hey. It was just the satisfaction we got to this point. We've made it.

NORRIS: Callie, I appreciate that you took time to come in and talk to us because you're not actually on book tour, you're still working. In fact, this morning you were on the job at the hotel with the soon-to-be first family as they were getting ready to send their kids off to school.

Ms. SHELL: Yes.

NORRIS: A big move for this family. How did the girls do this morning?

Ms. SHELL: They're amazing. You know, Sasha's the light and funny one who runs around and, you know, is seven and has all the energy. And Malia is just the most graceful, young lady you'd meet. And they're both - I found this whole campaign very wonderful. When they're with they're parents, you can tell how excited they are to be with them, but today was their first day at a new school, and they were more worried about keeping their dad's spirits up because he didn't get to go to school with them this morning, he had to go to Capitol Hill, and he wasn't going to get to go for the first day. And they were like, we'll tell you all about it, dad.

And the thing that is funny, it's probably been the whole campaign, because he and I talked about this - how hard it is to be away from your kids. The kids are half the time fine. It's you that's bad. So I think for him, I think he knows how lucky he is to have these kids that are so supportive of what he does and what his wife does. And he knows that he could not do this if it wasn't for his wife and his kids. And he never forgets that. And it's so obvious. You can tell by the way he looks at Michelle that it's not just his wife, it's his partner, and that one can't do without the other.

NORRIS: Callie Shell is a photographer for Time magazine. She's been covering Barack Obama since 2006. And her photos are featured in a new book called "President Obama: The Path to The White House." Callie, thanks so much for coming in.

Ms. SHELL: Thank you, Michele.

NORRIS: And you can see a slideshow with several of the photos Callie Shell has taken of Barack Obama since 2006 on the campaign trail and with his family. You'll find that at npr.org.

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