Callie Shell (b. 1961) was born in Gainesville, Georgia, and graduated from the College of Charleston with a BA in political science. She is currently a contract photographer for Time magazine. Previously she spent eight years at the White House as the official photographer for Vice President Al Gore. Shell has covered five presidential campaigns to date. Her work has been published in books, newspapers and in major news magazines around the world. Her White House work was exhibited in 2001 at Visa pour L’Image in Perpignan, France. She was also part of the book project and photographic exhibit, THE WAY HOME: Ending Homelessness in America. The work was exhibited in many prestigious venues around the country, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
Shell’s solo-exhibition in 1993 at the Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburgh was titled “From the Other Side of the Ropes: Behind the Scenes at the White House.” She has received several awards for photography and education from the National Press Photographers Association and is a distinguished teacher at workshops around the country. Shell was most recently honored by American Photo magazine for her image, Primary Winner, St. Paul, Minnesota 2008 (shown below), as their Image Of The Year: Portraiture.
Soles, Providence, Rhode Island 2008
In the fall of 1992, after stints at The Pittsburgh Press, USA Today and The Tennessean in Nashville, Shell got a call from a staffer with Tipper Gore. She invited Shell to photograph the last weeks of the Clinton/Gore presidential campaign. She was then asked back to cover the inauguration and the first hundred days. Those six weeks turned into eight years at the White House as Vice President Al Gore’s official photographer.
Primary Winner, St. Paul, Minnesota 2008
In January 2001, Shell was invited to become a Time magazine contract photographer, assigned to cover the White House and President Bush. She met Barack Obama in 2004, while covering John Kerry’s presidential campaign for Time magazine. Shell sent her editor more photographs of Obama than Kerry. When asked why, she said, “I do not know. I just have a feeling about him. I think he will be important down the road.” After hearing Obama’s passionate, hope-filled “one America” speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, others began to realize that she was on to something.
Pull-up, Missoula, Montana 2008
Her first photo essay on Obama appeared in Time magazine in 2006. Shell has been with him nearly every step of the way ever since. More than any other photographer, Shell has been able to capture the private side of the candidate, behind the scenes and unguarded, in places where almost no one gets to see him, or any presidential candidate. It is estimated that to date she has captured nearly 400,000 images of the Obama campaign and the events that surround it.
Martin Luther King Day, Columbia, South Carolina 2008
Shell states, “His campaign team were amazing. They never said, ‘You can’t take a photo of that’. And we just got on really well. He has two children, I have one – his daughter and my son are almost the same age. And he’s really funny. He’s the first politician that I’ve covered that was the same age as me – we’re only six months apart – so I related more than I ever have done before.”
Shell’s book, President Obama: The Path to The White House (Time Books) is currently on the New York Times Bestseller List. She states, “The (Obama) campaign has given me a lot of access. I know I am lucky to witness what I do. I want others to share these moments through my photographs.”
Shell lives in South Carolina with her husband, Vincent Musi, a National Geographic photographer, and their son, Hunter. She continues to cover the events surrounding President Obama, including the inauguration ceremony that took place January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC.
Eric J. Keller would like to thank Vincent Musi for his kind assistance in compiling this biography. Portrait of Callie Shell (above) by Vincent Musi. Copyright © Vincent Musi, 2009. All rights reserved.
Print Information: All photographic prints are archivally processed Epson Ultrachrome Print Photographs, printed under the artist’s supervision. All prints are signed by the artist in pencil au recto in the print margin.
Prints are produced in an open, unnumbered edition as follows: 9×13″ image, printed on 11×14″ paper, priced at $800.00, and 13×19″ image, printed on 17×22″ paper, priced at $1,500.00. Print prices are set by the artist and are subject to change without prior notice.