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Focus on the First Family

Amanda Lucidon

Amanda Lucidon. Official White House Photo
by Lawrence Jackson

As an official White House photographer for three years, Amanda Lucidon has traveled the globe documenting the activities of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Lucidon grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and came to IUP from Warrington. After receiving her communications media degree in 2001, she spent more than a decade as a freelance photographer. She has won numerous awards for her work, including as director/producer of the Legal Stranger Project, a multimedia documentary about the Defense of Marriage Act’s impact on same-sex couples. Lucidon has also worked as a staff photographer for newspapers in Riverside, California, and Salt Lake City, and she covered the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney while studying abroad at the University of Newcastle.

Her venture onto the White House staff started with a call from Pete Souza, chief photographer, who encouraged her to apply for the opening as the first lady’s primary photographer. Now, with the upcoming change of administration, the jobs of the four staff photographers will end January 20. But Lucidon focuses instead on the privilege she’s had of entering the White House gates each day.

“We work long hours and spend a lot of time on the road together, but the team is like a second family to me,” she said. “I feel so fortunate to have been able to see so much of the world and to have learned from the amazing people we’ve met along the way. It has truly been the experience of a lifetime.”

Here, Lucidon shares some of her favorite photographs from her time on the White House staff, along with her perspectives from behind the lens.

Click on any photo to view the full-size gallery.

Posing on the South Lawn of the White House in May 2015, First Lady Michelle Obama and members of her staff wore their college apparel in support of National College Signing Day and the Reach Higher initiative. Amanda Lucidon is at the front right, with the camera and IUP T-shirt. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Posing on the South Lawn of the White House in May 2015, First Lady Michelle Obama and members of her staff wore their college apparel in support of National College Signing Day and the Reach Higher initiative. Amanda Lucidon is at the front right, with the camera and IUP T-shirt. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

After delivering last year’s State of the Union address, President Obama greeted House and Senate pages as he left the US Capitol’s House Chamber. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

After delivering last year’s State of the Union address, President Obama greeted House and Senate pages as he left the US Capitol’s House Chamber. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

“In the State of the Union photo, I was shooting from the balcony in the head-on position. After the remarks, I noticed all of the Congressional pages were directly below me waiting to get a glimpse of the president. I knew he would walk down the aisle, but I wasn't sure if he’d stop to shake hands. So I composed the shot and waited to see if he would walk into the frame.

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Michelle Obama took her seat in the Presidential Box for the Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, last December. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

“As a photographer, you’re always trying to show something from a different perspective. Oftentimes, we will have several photographers at the same events shooting from different positions.

“In the Kennedy Center photo, my colleague Chuck Kennedy was on the ground photographing the first lady as she walked out into the box. I thought it would be neat to see what the other side of this picture looked like. I was able to make about four frames before the Secret Service agent closed the door.”

Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia visited the Great Wall of China in Mutianyu in March 2014. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia visited the Great Wall of China in Mutianyu in March 2014. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

“There are some challenges that most people probably don’t think about in terms of making pictures. Imagine navigating the uneven stone path with all of your camera gear, while keeping a quicker pace to be ahead of the group. The idea is to give them space but also be in the best position to shoot candid moments when they happen. It’s a great workout, even when it’s not the Great Wall of China!”

From Chilmark, Massachusetts, President Obama spoke by phone with his National Security staff in August 2013 about the situation in Egypt. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

From Chilmark, Massachusetts, President Obama spoke by phone with his National Security staff in August 2013 about the situation in Egypt. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

The Obamas participated in a memorial service in July for the five police officers killed in Dallas. The service was held in the city’s Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

The Obamas participated in a memorial service in July for the five police officers killed in Dallas. The service was held in the city’s Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

“There have been many difficult moments throughout this administration. We have photographed far too many statements and memorial services surrounding senseless shooting deaths throughout the country.”

Michelle Obama participated in a roundtable discussion in June in support of the Let Girls Learn initiative with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, right, actress and girls’ education advocate Freida Pinto, left, and students at R. S. Caulfield Senior High School. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Michelle Obama participated in a roundtable discussion in June in support of the Let Girls Learn initiative with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, right, actress and girls’ education advocate Freida Pinto, left, and students at R. S. Caulfield Senior High School. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

“You may not be able to tell in the photo (shot at a really low shutter speed), but the room was really dark. The classroom had no electricity and little resources for school supplies. But the girls were still extremely grateful to have a school. The first lady has made it her priority to shed light on the fact that 62 million girls around the world are not in school. She has said repeatedly that she will work on this issue after she’s no longer first lady.”

President Obama drove, and comedian Jerry Seinfeld rode shotgun in a 1963 Corvette Stingray on the South Grounds of the White House while recording segments last December for the web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

President Obama drove, and comedian Jerry Seinfeld rode shotgun in a 1963 Corvette Stingray on the South Grounds of the White House while recording segments last December for the web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

“I’ve always enjoyed using different mediums. When I heard Seinfeld was coming to film Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, I thought it would be the perfect time to experiment with a GoPro camera. The remote camera allowed me to make several hilarious photos.”

President Obama boarded Air Force One at Norman Manley International Airport in Jamaica en route to Panama City in April 2015. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

President Obama boarded Air Force One at Norman Manley International Airport in Jamaica en route to Panama City in April 2015. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

“The staff helicopters arrived several minutes before Marine One landed in Jamaica, and we were so excited to see a perfect rainbow arcing above Air Force One. I framed the shot and anxiously waited for the president to arrive, greet guests on the ground, and walk up the stairs. To my surprise, the rainbow stuck around, and POTUS walked right into it!”

Lucidon documented the work of the White House grounds crew for the feature “National Park Service: Voices from the White House” on the online platform Medium. Pictured is National Park Service employee Kevin Harris painting the door of the Oval Office. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Lucidon documented the work of the White House grounds crew for the feature “National Park Service: Voices from the White House” on the online platform Medium. Pictured is National Park Service employee Kevin Harris painting the door of the Oval Office. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

“In honor of the National Park Service centennial this year, I photographed and filmed the NPS employees at the White House. Most people are unaware that the 18 acres of White House grounds is actually a national park. Many of our groundskeepers have been here more than 35 years!”

First Lady Michelle Obama reacted to finding a worm while talking with students about composting during gardening demonstrations in April at Philip’s Academy Charter School in Newark, New Jersey. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

First Lady Michelle Obama reacted to finding a worm while talking with students about composting during gardening demonstrations in April at Philip’s Academy Charter School in Newark, New Jersey. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

“The first lady lights up when she’s surrounded by young people, which always makes great candid photos. Many of her initiatives are based around keeping kids healthy and inspiring them to get an education. Through Let’s Move, Reach Higher, Better Make Room, and Let Girls Learn, we spend a lot of time traveling the country and the world to spread these messages.”

The president and first lady were part of a videotaping for the World Expo in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in March of last year. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

The president and first lady were part of a videotaping for the World Expo in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in March of last year. (Official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon)

“It’s also important to have good editors. Al Anderson, White House photo editor, spotted this image of the president and first lady in between takes of a taping. Initially, I wrote the image off as an ‘almost’ shot, because, to me, the composition was off. But Al pointed out that it was such a sweet moment that composition didn’t really matter. He was right!”