President Obama meets president-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office (10 November)
Win McNamee/Getty Images
The day after the election, I left New York City where I’d been planning to cover the election night event featuring the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who had not shown up. Back in Washington DC, we immediately began sending requests to the White House press office for access to the first meeting between Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
The next morning, along with almost 30 other photographers and reporters, I was piling through the narrow doorway of the Oval Office where the two were seated. These situations are frequently chaotic and this one was no different, with reporters shouting questions and jostling for position. I expected the atmosphere to be somewhat chilly, but I was surprised to find it was just the opposite – they were quite at ease, comfortable in each other’s presence. It seemed to me that Obama had already decided that the best way to proceed was to genuinely offer as much help as he could to try and make sure the government continues to function as it should.
As I was photographing, I thought about the paintings and sculptures surrounding them. There is a portrait of the first president of the US George Washington in the centre, looking down from above, and busts of Martin Luther King to the left of Trump and of Abraham Lincoln to the right of Obama. I wondered what these former leaders would think of American politics today. I think that’s what makes the picture so powerful. The way it’s framed shows the context of the Oval Office and the maelstrom of the press, as well as the expressions on the two men’s faces. You see the urgency of the moment.