Art Review: Obama’s People by Nadav Kander

Kander’s portraits of America’s 52 leading men and women make up a striking exhibition for anyone who needed reminding that Obama is now God. Oh, hadn’t you heard?

The photographic exhibition aims to depict the president’s movement towards a more inclusive, modern and diverse politics. As you enter Birmingham Gallery you can see the faces of the people destined to advise, support and assist in transforming America into the promised land, in photographs deliberately posed to woo the public into a glorious vision of the Obama future – a PR campaign carried out in the name of art – in a series of slick images, determined faces and Avon makeup.

The gallery walls explain: “Kander’s approach mirrors the intention behind the Obama team to bring together an eclectic body of individuals who believe that change is possible. They run across boundaries of race, gender, age and religion into a unified, intelligent, contemporary, engaging and yet formidable force which brings hope to the world.”

They might as well have written “John 3:16” at the end.

As if to prove Obama is the all-accepting, all-embracing saviour his campaigners have painted him as, each member of the president’s team seems to have been given a prop to highlight their own unique personality and strength within the team.

One wears a Stetson, another has a pencil posed behind his ear, several have novelty coloured ties or shirts. It is as if Kander is trying to find a member of Obama’s administration for every possible demographic to relate to – each with easily comprehensible personalities. Just like Barbie.

Over on the left we have Legal Barbie – with her serious suit and leather belt. On the right we see Flustered Assistant Mr Barbie – his multi coloured scarf slung across his broad shoulders, giving him the air of a hard working family man. Thirty-nine-year-old Mike Stratmanis is the president’s Intergovernmental Relations Barbie – he comes with his own sports cap, portable briefcase and expandable smile.

Obama’s associate 27-year-old Reggie Lowe had so many accessories I’m sure he could have competed with Barbie, Cindy and Ken combined. Kander has photographed him with blue-tooth headphones, sunglasses, a pager strapped to his belt, at least eight pens – you can never have too many pens – a casual jacket embroidered with his name and, oh yes, an American pin badge. That’s right – Reggie could be the number one girl’s Christmas gift this year – he is Obama’s Personal Assistant Barbie.

It takes no time at all for the viewer to realise that these are not the natural, character capturing shots advertised in the exhibition blurb – these are extremely posed pictures.

If this doesn’t convince you that art has become a little too involved with all the new American myth-making then the shrine-like alcove at the centre of the exhibit surely must. With a single, black and white photo of the great King himself, picked out in a halo of light, we are asked to swallow a new religion of America.

Can we take it with a pinch of salt?

Yes we can.

View Kander’s work here:

Obama’s People shows at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until August 31. Admission is free.


3 Responses to “Art Review: Obama’s People by Nadav Kander”

  1. dward1967 Says:

    I’m going to go wash some Rolaids down with a glass of Pepto and a scotch chaser.

  2. […] the quote from my girlfriend’s blog. She has journalistic skill, and her blog is v.good. So, here it […]

  3. sineadnolan2008 Says:

    haha i like this post – its cynically brilliant. An alcove and a halo – are you serious?!!.. can we vom? yes we can! :0

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