Shortly before the 2008 presidential election, the editor and the photo director of the New York Times Magazine decided to commission a photographic portfolio of the incoming administration. It was inspired by The Family, Richard Avedon’s groundbreaking 1976 Rolling Stone portfolio of Nixon's circle. They wanted to assign a world-class portraitist to document the universe of Barack Obama, who seemed poised to win an historic victory.
Kathy Ryan, the photo director, chose the brilliant photographer Nadav Kander to make portraits of 52 people Obama was tapping to join his team—cabinet members, senators, members of Congress, and senior advisers.
As deputy photo editor, my role was to produce the portrait sessions, which occurred during the transition. At the time, President-elect Obama was announcing new cabinet members every day, and we had only a short window before the inauguration to produce the portfolio. We set up mini-studios all over Washington, from the ballroom at the St. Regis Hotel to the basement of the Senate building. Many of our subjects were new arrivals in Washington, and they were often meeting each other for the first time at our shoots. In one memorable day, I scheduled 15 portrait sessions back-to-back. The final portfolio, published just before Inauguration Day, was designed by Rem Duplessis and became the entire issue of the magazine: 52 full-page color portraits that shined a spotlight on Obama’s people.