Extended until april 29, 2018: Special exhibition »obama: an intimate portrait«

© Pete Souza/ Courtesy CAMERA WORK
© Pete Souza/ Courtesy CAMERA WORK

© Pete Souza/ Courtesy CAMERA WORK
© Pete Souza/ Courtesy CAMERA WORK

© Pete Souza/ Courtesy CAMERA WORK
© Pete Souza/ Courtesy CAMERA WORK





  November 4, 2017 to April 29, 2018



Museum THE KENNEDYS is proud to present »Obama: An Intimate Portrait,« the first exhibition on the Obama presidency in Germany, opening on November 4 — the anniversary of Barack Obama's first election to the office of President of the United States. All 65 exhibition photographs are taken from the oeuvre of Pete Souza, former Chief White House Photographer (2009-2017).


Is it too early to commemorate Obama in a museum? The term of the 44th President of the United States only ended on January 20th of this year. And yet, it already seems very much in the past; partly due to the overwhelming presence of his successor, Donald Trump, who is beginning to invert Obama's political legacy. According to political scientists, Trump’s election marks a turning point in the political culture of the United States and, like no other event, signifies the deep ideological and economic division of the American society. This is more than reason enough to look back at the preceding era of Obama with this exhibition.


In order to facilitate a retrospective, the exhibition’s photographs of Souza are arranged chronologically by year. Three thematic aspects complement this process and invite the visitor to reflect on the origins and effects of the photographs, as well as to recapitulate the political achievements of Barack Obama’s presidency:


»Pete Souza: Chief White House Photographer«


»The Obama Image« and


»Obama: What remains?«


The first topic deals with the challenging everyday work of the president’s full-time photographer and describes the special relationship between Souza and Obama. Due to his work for National Geographic and Life, Souza is regarded as one of the most renowned photojournalists of his generation. Between June 1983 and January 1989, Souza had worked as Chief White House Photographer. For six years he documented Ronald Reagan's presidency. In 2005, he began to document the political rise of then-young US Senator of Illinois, Barack Obama. The election of Obama to the office of the US President on November 4, 2008, led Souza back to the White House.


An interesting »reading aid« for the photographs are the detailed captions provided by Pete Souza which offer an insightful look behind the scenes of the White House. With »The Obama Image,« the exhibition sheds light on the representation of Barack Obama. Since Kennedy, no president has switched as skillfully as Obama between the roles of US president, pop icon and family father. But what comprised the core of the »Obama Image« and what role did the photographer himself play in the way the first African American president was portrayed?


The third chapter »Obama: What remains?« deals with Obama's political heritage. At the beginning of Obama’s term expectations were enormous and were only boosted when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize during his first year in office. But what remains from the president’s double term and how will history judge his presidency? We dare to make a first prediction.


A prominent feature of the Obama presidency was the president's rhetoric. Who does not remember the battle cry »Yes we can!« that echoed throughout the 2008 election campaign. Sometimes solemn, sometimes fierce, sometimes reproachful: Obama's talent to put complex thoughts and emotions into words was, and still is remarkable. For that reason, there are quotes written on the walls of this exhibition which coined their respective year in office. They refer to the months-long struggle for a health care reform, the fight against international terrorism, Berlin’s special significance, the hope of overcoming racial and immigration problems, and conclude with an appeal to the citizen's responsibility and creativity – a keynote of Barack Obama's candidacy in 2008.


In this sense: you are welcome to engage with a piece of contemporary political history at THE KENNEDYS. We are looking forward to your visit!