By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – It’s not much more than a year since Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States of America. To mark Obama’s first year in office, the US Embassy of Brazil has compiled and co-ordinated Obama: The Man Few Know photography exhibition currently showing at Centro Cultural Justiça Federal in Cinelândia.

Early in the morning on January 21st, President Barack Obama rides the elevator to the private residence of the White House after attending ten inaugural balls, Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

The exhibition features twenty photographs of the President in a variety of official and informal situations and makes a clear aim to present previously unseen sides of the man with the most powerful job in the world.

Due to the magnitude of his influence and the political rhetoric surrounding his appointment, it is easy to view Obama in quite abstract terms. However, the exhibition focuses squarely on Obama, the man, with behind-the-scenes images of the President that show a little more of the personal character to which millions have warmed.

The setting for the many of the images is the White House, its plush color-themed rooms finished with stately grandeur backdrop images that include Obama running through the corridors with the family dog Bo and a beautifully styled family portrait in the green room by famed portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz. Obama off duty is a thread running through the exhibition, with other images showing the President slouching in his seat watching the Super Bowl and shooting hoops with White House employees.

Alongside Obama at play are images that show him at work, from signing a bill at the Oval Office (he’s left handed like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him) to a fantastic shot of him with his head thrown back in exhausted exasperation during a budget meeting.

President Barack Obama meets with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil in the Oval Office, Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

Organized by the US Embassy in Brazil and showing in various locations across the country following its February debut in Brasília, it wouldn’t be complete without a nod to US Brazil relations. The image of Lula and Obama in conversation at the White House is duly engaging, not least for body language interpretation.

Lula’s body and shoulders are positioned towards Obama as he talks with characteristic gesticulation, while Obama maintains a controlled forward facing posture with only his head turned toward the Brazilian leader, his face fixed in a wry smile. Read into it what you will, but don’t overlook the interpreters whose presence and expressions remind us of the process of interaction between the two.

The exhibition is most engaging in that it does genuinely capture a sense of the President and it is his warm personable charm that shines through, especially in the more intimate shots.

Of the exhibition, Cultural Attaché at the US Embassy, Jean Manes says “President Obama has a personal history of success and has inspired a lot of people all over the world. The exhibition shows the human side of the President, unlike that seen in official photographs.”

While the photos are somewhat candid, this is an official exhibition of official photographs, and each one either bears the credit “Official White House Photo” or “Released by the White House Press Office”. Even if they didn’t, the exhibition would still have the distinct scent of PR about it, although none-the-less interesting.

Obama: The Man Few Know, until April 4th at Centro Cultural Justiça Federal, Avenida Rio Branco, 241, Cinelândia. Open Tuesday to Sunday Noon to 7PM. Free entrance.


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