Chasing Light

Michelle Obama Through the Lens of a White House Photographer



About the Book

A New York Times Best Seller

A collection of striking and intimate photographs of Michelle Obama—many never before seen—coupled with personal reflections and behind-the-scenes stories from Official White House Photographer Amanda Lucidon, presented in a deluxe format.

Michelle Obama is one of the most admired First Ladies in history, known for her grace, spirit, and beauty, as well as for the amazing work she did during her tenure to promote girls’ education, combat childhood obesity, and support military families. In Chasing Light, former White House photographer Amanda Lucidon, who spent four years covering the First Lady, shares a rare insider’s perspective, from documenting life at the White House to covering domestic and overseas travel. This collection of 150 candid photos—many previously unreleased—and Amanda’s narrative reflections reveal just what makes Mrs. Obama so special. From an affectionate moment with her daughters atop the strikingly empty Great Wall of China to exuberant moments with schoolchildren and quiet moments between the First Lady and President Obama, the photos are a vibrant, candid, and beautiful celebration of the First Lady, capturing the qualities and strengths that have made Mrs. Obama so beloved.
Read more

Praise for Chasing Light

A New York Times Best Seller

“This awesome collection of images reminds us of how powerful the role of First Lady has evolved to become. Michelle Obama’s optimistic outreach toward achievable goals—in education, environmental stewardship, and healthy living—gave people an infusion of hope and can-do   encouragement. The photographs of Amanda Lucidon capture the sparkling moments of Michelle Obama’s memorable time in the White House. It is a joyous collection.”
—Meryl Streep
“Michelle Obama, with dignity, grace, and respect, has taught and inspired all of us to chase what is good, right, and just. Through her life’s commitment and dedication, she is the embodiment of a powerful light.”
—Congressman John Lewis
 “Chasing Light is a remarkable and intimate behind-the-scenes look at one of the most influential icons of our time. Michelle Obama is dedicated, gracious, and humble. She has touched so many lives and continues to profoundly affect our world in the most genuine and positive ways. This book is an outstanding tribute to our beloved First Lady, and my friend, Michelle Obama.”
—Kerry Washington
“As a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, I had the pleasure of seeing firsthand the wonderful effects of Michelle Obama’s work on behalf of underserved schoolchildren. Under her leadership, the classroom became an opportunity not just for learning, but also for innovation and creative expression.”
—Yo-Yo Ma
“Michelle Obama’s efforts redefined the role of First Lady and have left an imprint on the world like no other. As I turn through the pages of this beautiful book, I am reminded of the joy she shares with the world and the grace and humility she exudes. Her spirit and her legacy are captured in these photos.”
—Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution
Read more

Chasing Light



I imagine that my first encounter with First Lady Michelle Obama was similar to many other people’s experience—it was quick, I have no idea what I said, and I could hardly see because I was smiling so big. I imagine Mrs. Obama said something like “Welcome to the team. We are glad to have you.” But I can’t be certain, because it was all a blur. In my head I was thinking, Wow! She’s so tall . . . and pretty . . . and nice! When she walked away, I immediately started thinking, Geez, I hope I didn’t look or sound foolish. It was hard to imagine that I would spend the next four years in her company.

I would come to learn that I wasn’t alone in my shell shock. For my first few weeks at the White House, I shadowed the other photographers before I started taking pictures on my own. On the first assignment with Mrs. Obama, I was shadowing my colleague Lawrence Jackson as he shot a very long photo line in the Blue Room. About three hundred people were lined up to meet the First Lady and have their photo taken with her before an event. I watched each of them have their own reaction to meeting her. Some covered their mouths in awe, while others fanned themselves or had trouble catching their breath. Some laughed, some cried, some couldn’t speak. Others just stood there with a big goofy grin as they smiled and nodded (while I kicked myself for doing the same thing!). During my time as a White House photographer, I would see this time and time again. The First Lady was accustomed to meeting a lot of people. But they were not used to meeting the First Lady. I realized that if I was going to do my job effectively, I’d have to find a way to get comfortable being in Mrs. Obama’s presence.

• • •

What’s a typical day for a White House photographer? I’ve been asked that many times. The truth is, there wasn’t a typical day. Every day was different, and I loved that. It could be busy and exciting or slow and routine. But we always had to be ready, because slow days could turn into busy ones quickly and unexpectedly. Our team of five White House photographers documented the day-to-day duties and the official events of the President, First Lady, and Vice President. Pete Souza, the Chief White House Photographer, documented the President, while David Lienemann covered the Vice President. I primarily covered the First Lady. But Chuck Kennedy, Lawrence Jackson, and I often found ourselves photographing both the President and First Lady, especially for big events where two or three photographers were needed to cover multiple angles. Our job was to document the presidency for the historical record. It was a responsibility that we took very seriously.

I felt like I had the best of both worlds: I was fortunate to be able to assist with coverage of President Obama, while spending most of my time with the First Lady. I covered meetings, formal remarks, official events, photo lines, tapings, performances, and state visits as well as domestic and international travel. Mrs. Obama enjoyed adding some fun to the mix. She loved to drop by and surprise people, in and out of the White House, which always made for great photos. I really admired the way the First Lady maintained such a serious role, yet she loved to laugh. Mrs. Obama’s interactions with kids and animals, skits with comedians and celebrities, and light-hearted moments with staff members brought a refreshing levity to this high-pressure environment.

I learned that arriving early was essential. It was not only important to stay inside “the bubble”; being early also meant I could assess the setting, capture some interesting behind-the-scenes moments, and be prepared for any last-minute changes. A certain phrase became ingrained in my mind: “The motorcade only waits for one person . . . and it’s not you.” I had heard stories from White House staffers of current and past administrations who warned, “Don’t get left behind.” I heard about a photographer who missed the motorcade after trying to get a unique angle, and about a staff member sleeping through an alarm on an exhausting overseas trip. Missing the motorcade (or worse yet, the plane) was by far my biggest fear. For a White House photographer responsible for documenting history, missing the motorcade or plane would mean there would be no official photos taken of the event. This anxiety never really went away throughout my time at the White House.

But it was a thrilling job that afforded me amazing opportunities. I was able to witness and document history, while learning from and being inspired by the President and First Lady. There were so many things that never stopped being exciting, like flying on Air Force One. The first time I boarded the President’s plane, I was overwhelmed. I had no idea how I’d find my seat on this enormous, beautiful plane. I just followed the seasoned White House staffers, who led me past the President’s cabin, doctor’s office, and conference room back to the roomy staff cabin. There were two pods of four chairs around two tables, plus another two chairs on the far side of the plane by the window.

“Ms. Lucidon, you’re seated over there,” said the Air Force One attendant.

I walked over to the window seat and saw the place card that read “Welcome to Air Force One, Ms. Lucidon.” I remember feeling so proud to see my family name on that card. My great-grandfather changed our last name from Lucidonio to Lucidon because he found it was too difficult to get a good job with an Italian last name. I looked at our modified family name and thought about the generations of immigrants that came before me and the struggles they endured as manual laborers. Now the Lucidons (and the Lucidonios!) had a seat on Air Force One.

I looked around at the cabin of staff members and recognized that we came from many different backgrounds. We each had a place card with our family name represented, and everyone was welcome.

Moments like those constantly reminded me how special it was to work in the White House.

About the Author

Amanda Lucidon
Amanda Lucidon served as an official White House photographer and spent much of her time photographing First Lady Michelle Obama from 2013 to 2017. She is one of only a few female White House photographers in history and was the only woman photographer during her time in the Obama White House. She is also an award-winning documentarian, filmmaker, and former freelance New York Times photographer. Amanda's work has been honored by Pictures of the Year International, National Press Photographers Association Best of Photojournalism, and the White House News Photographers Association, among others. She is a photographer, filmmaker, author, and public speaker based in Memphis, TN. More by Amanda Lucidon
Decorative Carat