This is what makes a good portrait

The White House just released the first official First Family portrait, and I love it!

It has a formal feel without being stuffy.  It is both casual and elegant.  It is intimate and welcoming at the same time. 

There are the specific details, too, that stand out to me.  The President is just slightly closer to the camera than the rest of his family, his wife included.  It is slight, no doubt, but implies that he is playing a starring role in the eyes of the photographer.  He is the President, after all.  (Note, too, that he is the only one with any color in his outfit.)  His body language is also casual and friendly, as if he’s just asked you to tell him about your own family.  I also noticed the little bit of leg that the older daughter, Malia, is showing.  She is eleven years old now — far from an adult, for sure, but no longer a small child.  Her outfit and that bit of skin hint at a maturity and coming-of-age that she is no doubt starting to experience.  Lastly, there’s the interconnectedness of the family.  They are grouped off a little – Sasha with the President, Malia with her mom – yet they are all still in contact.  Sasha and Malia are obviously touching a parent, but Michelle is also holding Sasha’s hand, and I’m pretty sure the President and First Lady’s knees are touching. 

Even the background conveys a message.  There are two doorways, and both doors are open.  They could have been closed… but they aren’t.  You can see beyond them, but just a little.  If the doors were closed, the portrait would definitely have a more formal, closed-off feel.  But their openness implies an openness about the family, a feeling that they are at home, and they are welcoming you in. 

Annie Leibovitz, no doubt, is a master of the trade, and this photograph certainly reinforces that reputation.  I would bet that every detail in this portrait was intentional and orchestrated, but with the complete focus on making everything look unintentional.  It’s a completely lovely photograph.


~ by Lisa on October 23, 2009.

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