One of the most interesting—and to some extent, underreported—aspects of President Obama’s 2008 campaign is the fervor and excitment it caused abroad. From Brazil to the U.K., the campaign captivated Americans and non-Americans alike. Nicola Green was among them—and unlike most of her countrymen, Green was actually there.
Beginning with Obama’s 2008 confirmation as the DNC candidate in Denver, and ending with his inauguration in January 2009, Green spent weeks following the to-be president across the country. In league with 15,000 journalists and photographers, and without any official credentials, Green wasn’t given any special access. She wasn’t even “covering” the events. Yet over the course of those months, she amassed a huge amount of drawings and notes, ultimately leading to In Seven Days, a series of screenprints that now hang in the Library of Congress and are currently on view at London’s Flowers Gallery.
The 2008 campaign was one of great art—some of it coming from within the campaign machinery itself. Green’s work is a bit less literal than Shepard Fairey’s Hope poster or Chuck Close’s paintings, though. Most of the screen prints are abstract, showing POTUS’ hands or his profile. Some of them are rough sketches of parade-goers. Others don’t even reference Obama specifically. Yet these images have a certain energy to them, don’t they? Maybe I’m projecting onto them, as someone who remembers the excitement of those months, but I can practically feel the emotion behind Green’s hand—it was an immensely optimistic moment, for Americans and Brits alike. Critic Stephen Armstrong explains:
In Seven Days deliberately toys with the techniques of the mass media—screen printing, magazine cuttings and photography snapped on the move. Nicola’s journey mimicked a hack on the campaign trail—she used contacts, charm, persistence and ingenuity to coax her way into the heart of Obama’s quasi-military operation, nestling in surprising places and producing surprising things.
We’ve all seen countless images of Obama—I probably see at least one every day—and yet his portrait, at the heart of the piece, is unlike anything I’ve seen before. With his sleeves rolled up, striding firmly forward it’s a shot that would have been catnip to picture editors on the open market. How did she pull it off—acing paparazzi with years of experience using the digital equivalent of an Instamatic?
In Seven Days is on view at Flowers Gallery until April 13.