Behind the Cover: Obama Makes His Way to the DNC

Callie Shell for TIME
Callie Shell for TIME
All photographs taken Aug. 18, 2012
President Obama exits Air Force One upon arriving at the airport in Manchester, N.H.

Photographer Callie Shell has documented Barack Obama for more than eight years. This week, her pictures of the President campaigning in New Hampshire are featured in TIME’s special Democratic Convention Issue. The photojournalist began documenting Obama first as a junior Senator, then throughout his campaign and has continued through his first term in office.

Callie Shell for TIME

The cover of TIME's Sept. 10 Special Convention Issue.

Shell’s most recent photographs show a confident President, relaxed and composed, before making speeches at campaign stops throughout New Hampshire. “You spend a lot of time as President waiting for people to introduce you,” she tells TIME, “so that’s always the best time to be around him.”

Although Shell’s eight years of experience with the President help her know what to expect, she still feels nervous about her responsibility documenting the leader of the free world. Looking for different angles that show the Obama she witnesses firsthand is a constant challenge—like her photograph of Obama taking a quiet moment alone before hopping onstage in Rochester on August 18 (slide #5).

And sometimes during these fleeting moments of calm, Obama and Shell chat about their children—both are parents of children the same age.

Shell says she’s always looking for ways to show things from both the perspective of Obama and the crowds that come out to meet him. “It helps when there’s a really cute kid with really big eyes peeking over [a barricade],” she says of one of her photos shot last week (slide #13).

“I think its so hard to remember who that person is on the podium—that these politicians are real people,” she says.

Even though Shell has photographed many different politicians through the years, she understands that making photographs of the President and other decision-makers is reliant on their trust. “You aren’t here as a Republican or Democrat or an Independent—you’re just here to show people what goes on when they’re not standing at the podium.”

Callie Shell is a South Carolina-based photographer who has photographed Barack Obama since 2004. See more of her work for TIME here.

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