Nolis Anderson’s iconic photo of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, taken just moments after Obama delivered his farewell speech, blew up on 500px when it was first discovered early Wednesday morning. I reached out to the photographer for the full story behind this historic photo.

Barry by Nolis Anderson on

Story Behind the Shot
This photo was captured at the end of President Obama’s Farewell Address at McCormick Place in Chicago. Throughout the entire night, I was trying to find the ideal angle in order to take a shot that I believed would encompass every aspect of the night. This was slightly difficult as this was my first time shooting a political event. CNN reporters zooming past you and press photographers bullying their way around the press area—it was a madhouse.

As the president was finishing his speech, I saw the shot. The angle was stage right and I was hanging off one of the steps of the risers where all the photographers were bunched together. There was absolutely zero room to spare, so I had one hand keeping my balance on a rail with the other trying to hold a lot of camera by itself. To say I was a bit uncomfortable would be an understatement.

As Obama said his goodbyes, he turned away from the stage and waved at the people in the crowd. He was together with the First Lady and Malia; they were both cast in shadow while the light shone solely on the President. I saw him standing there with his family, arm extended, saying goodbye to his country with the flag as his background, and knew it was the shot immediately.

This night reminded me why I chose the path to become a photographer. I can only imagine some of the things I would have missed out on in life if I didn’t make that decision.

How He Captured This Photo
That night I was shooting with a 2 camera – 2 lens setup. I wanted to travel as light as I could while being efficient at the same time. My equipment consisted of a Canon 5d MkIII w/ a 24-70mm f2.8 L and a Canon 1dx with a 70-200mm f2.8 IS L II. Everything was shot in manual mode that night. This photo, in particular, was around 200mm, 1/200, 2.8, with an ISO of 2000. The photos were edited in Lightroom with my own custom settings.

Meet photographer Nolis Anderson:
My name is Nolis Anderson and I’m a freelance photographer based out of Chicago, IL. I guess you would consider me a Portrait/Lifestyle photographer. I’m a self-taught photographer that started shooting about 9 years ago, but I have only taken it seriously in the past 3. Previously I worked a 9-5 as a Pharmacist but decided it was no longer the direction I wanted to go. I hope to one day work myself up to be able to capture photos of the people that really make an impact on this world, good or bad. I want my photos to inspire the people who will come after me. I have previously worked together with Nike on a collaboration campaign for its Fall season in Chicago and more recently covered the Obama Farewell speech for W Magazine.

Follow Nolis Anderson on 500px and check out his website for more of his photography.