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Legendary Photos: The Stories Behind 5 of David Hume Kennerly’s Iconic Images

Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist discusses his classic shots
Photo of George Bush and Michelle Obama by David Hume Kennerly

Have you ever wondered about the stories behind some of the world’s most iconic images? Our new series “Legendary Photos,” features photographers from Canon’s Explorer’s of Light program, past and present, giving us behind-the-scenes insight on how they captured these unforgettable moments.

For the inaugural installment of Legendary Photos, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist David Hume Kennerly shares the stories behind five of his powerful photos. Kennerly will be discussing his life in photography at a special free event this Thursday, November 4th at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Hug

“The Hug” (above) was taken at the dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016 when First Lady Michelle Obama hugged former President George W. Bush.

I immediately knew that the embrace was important. If I had taken it a fraction of a second before, after, or standing a foot in either direction I would have missed the moment. Another key element was Bush having his eyes closed for that magic instant, and it helped make the photo something special. The picture went viral as soon as I posted it online.

This photograph zeroes in on emotion and humanity. It shows two people whose mutual affection was both symbolic and heartfelt. Here you see an African American woman hugging a white man. A Democrat hugging a Republican. This is the kind of moment most of us would like to see more often, particularly these days.


The reason for the embrace was clear to me. Mrs. Obama was expressing gratitude for the role President Bush played in the formation of the African American museum. In 2003, he signed legislation creating the NMAAHC as part of the Smithsonian Institution, ensuring its home on the National Mall.

This image is the non-political and bi-partisan manifestation of people of all colors, sizes, shapes, and political parties getting together to celebrate the opening of the NMAAHC. It was an honor and privilege to witness it, and document it. I made this frame with the Canon EOS 5DS R using the Canon EF 100-400mm lens at 400mm.

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