Hope, Never Fear


By Callie Shell

Read by Callie Shell

Formats and Prices


Audiobook Download (Unabridged)


Audiobook Download (Unabridged)

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 3, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Award-winning photographer Callie Shell presents an intimate and moving portrait of Barack and Michelle Obama and the presidency that made history. This unique look behind the curtains spans more than eight years, following the journey from the Obama’s family home in Chicago to the most powerful house in the United States.

An in-depth introduction written and read by Shell is followed by a collection of personal stories from her time spent with the Obamas. These uniquely intimate anecdotes are interwoven with inspiring excerpts from live speeches by Barack and Michelle Obama, that reveal their warmth, compassion, and unending commitment to service.

Hope, Never Fear: A Personal Portrait of the Obamas, the audiobook, provides an affecting and deeply personal insight into this extraordinary couple who inspired and empowered millions of people around the world.

The audiobook edition features the following recordings of live speeches, among others:

Democratic National Convention, Denver, Colorado, USA, August 25, 2008
Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, September 4, 2012
State of the Union Address, United States House of Representatives, Washington, DC, USA, January 28, 2014
United Nations General Assembly, New York City, New York, USA, September 24, 2014
State of the Union Address, United States House of Representatives, Washington, DC, USA, January 13, 2016
Democratic National Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, July 27, 2016
Interview with Oprah Winfrey, the White House, Washington, DC, USA, December 19, 2016 (Audio Courtesy of Harpo. Inc.)
Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, Johannesburg, South Africa, July 17, 2018

© 2019 Callie Shell, ℗ 2019 Blackwell and Ruth Limited
Produced by Blackwell & Ruth for Chronicle Books Audio
All rights reserved


Greater West Town Training Center, Chicago, IL, April 4, 2004

Illinois State Senator Barack Obama after introducing presidential candidate Senator John Kerry at a rally.

This book isn’t a love fest for the Obamas. It isn’t meant to make us miss them more or deepen what divides us. It is, instead, my personal portrait of a journey that changed us all for the better. It is a reminder of the difference this family made when our country needed change and something to believe in. It is to show, through my images and their words, where they came from and what they did. And in showing that, to say it is now our time to pick up where they left off and carry on what they started. With hope, not fear.

I first met Barack Obama at a rally for Senator John Kerry in Chicago on April 4, 2004. I was there to photograph Kerry for Time magazine; he was there to introduce Kerry at the rally.

I liked him instantly. He was charismatic, funny, and engaging. I watched him hang out in the back hallway while Kerry took interviews. He said hello to everyone—not just Kerry’s staff, but the janitor, the building staff, and the union workers. He was personable, with a genuine smile. Eventually he made his way over to me, and said, “What do you do?” We started talking about our kids, his youngest being the same age as my son, Hunter. We joked that we were both tall and had big ears, and that we had both married up in life; that we had great spouses. I thought at the time that I could see myself being friends with him.

When he went onto the floor, I was surprised at the enthusiastic response. People were so excited to see him that the applause he received was louder than it was for Kerry. I took a lot of photographs of him that day, and when my editor at Time joked that I must be getting bored photographing Kerry, I told her that I thought Obama might run for president one day. A few months later, he gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, and suddenly everyone was talking about him. My editor said, “So this is the guy, the one you’ve been talking about!” Later that year he won the election for U.S. Senate in Illinois, and I asked Time if I could photograph his freshman year as a senator. That was the start of my journey with the Obamas.

I had not planned to spend my career photographing politicians. I had no interest in politics growing up. I developed a love of photography in high school, taking pictures of my friends, and after college I worked for various newspapers as a photojournalist. I realized I wanted to give back and make a difference, and I felt photography was an effective medium to do this. It could educate people and show them what was happening in the world.

After meeting my husband Vince, we moved to Washington, DC, while I worked for the administration of President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. It was initially only meant to be for one week, which turned into one hundred days, which turned into eight years. And that was my first introduction to political photography.

It was an eye-opening experience. It made me realize how hard people at the White House work, and how much they actually care. There are a large number of people working there, dedicating their lives to making government work for those who need its help most. It was inspiring. And eventually, it led me to the Obamas.

I first met Michelle at her home in Hyde Park, a Chicago neighborhood, as she sat at her kitchen table, balancing her checkbook, checking her Blackberry, and talking with her daughters, Sasha and Malia.

I was there on assignment, spending a few days with Obama for Time. She was exactly what he said she was—strong, gorgeous, funny, and wise beyond her years. She told me, “We are big on hugs in this family,” and welcomed me into her home without question. She warned me that my profile of her husband was going to “make his head bigger than it already is,” adding fondly: “Whatever you do, just don’t put him on the cover.” We did.

I was simultaneously awed by this amazing woman, who seemed to balance her career and family so easily, and frightened by the reality of what a presidential campaign would mean for the Obamas should her husband decide to run. There was no doubt in my mind that she would be an incredible First Lady, or that he would be an extraordinary president. But I felt a gnawing sense of dread—here they were, both so down to earth, and completely obsessed with their kids. They had what seemed like the perfect family life.

That same day, after the family served themselves cereal for breakfast, I took a picture of Obama washing the dishes with the girls (p. 63).

Hyde Park, Chicago, IL, October 2, 2006

On the front steps of their home. (Malia is eight, Sasha is five.)

I couldn’t help but feel that this life would soon be gone. There would be no more washing dishes, no more balancing the checkbook at the kitchen table, no more dropping the kids at school—all simple things that we perhaps take for granted, until they’re gone.

After eight years with Vice President Gore, I felt an innate desire to swoop in and stop this family before the madness of a presidential campaign could begin.

The whirlwind built slowly. We spent time in those first few calm months in vans driving across Illinois. There was no security detail, no entourage, no frenzied media. It was low-key and relaxed—just Obama laying the groundwork. The image I took of him in October 2006, shaking hands with a couple through their car window (p. 105) epitomizes the simple, honest, grassroots campaigning of those early days. The couple had rolled down the window and said, “Aren’t you that guy? You’re Barack Obama, the senator, right?” He loved talking to people and hearing what they had to say. He was naturally friendly and outgoing, and, with no staff or Secret Service to restrict him, he immediately introduced himself to the couple and started up a conversation.

I got the impression that this ability to greet people and talk comfortably with anyone was something he cared deeply about. Later that same day, on a phone call with staff in Washington, DC, he emphasized that the workers out meeting the public needed to be people who loved to engage with others, and who really cared. Some people would only ever get to meet his staff, so he wanted them to be a reflection of him; of his empathy, and his ability to listen and build a rapport. It didn’t need to be about politics—he had a genuine interest in what people thought, and he enjoyed simple, everyday conversations with strangers. He had a way of making people feel at ease, and making them feel that their views were important. He looked people in the eye when he spoke to them. On his way back from buying lunch one day, he stopped to talk to a woman at a gas station (p. 152). I think small one-on-one conversations helped him feel grounded and connected to real people.

As the months went by, things accelerated. Obama’s popularity grew; and in February 2007 he announced he was running for the presidency in 2008. The campaigning intensified, and the crowds grew. It was extraordinary for a new candidate to pull in such big crowds at rallies. People were intrigued by this young, energetic, and charismatic leader. He acknowledged the people who came out to see him, working his way through the crowds after speaking, shaking people’s hands, and thanking them (p. 194). People began to stop him on the streets. The difference now, compared with a year earlier when he had time to shake a couple’s hands through their car window, was stark.

Unlike some politicians I have photographed in the past, I found it easy to take pictures of him on his own, even as the campaign progressed. He let his staff do their jobs and didn’t want them fussing over him. He seemed comfortable in front of my camera, and had a calm, relaxed demeanor in general. I made sure he knew he could tell me to stop taking photographs at any time. In the early days of the campaign, when we were still traveling in a van, I could see that he was getting tired, so I asked him if I could take a picture should he fall asleep. He said he didn’t care, but that Michelle told him when he falls asleep his mouth drops open—so if his mouth dropped open, there were to be no more pictures. Thus, when a year and a half later, he fell asleep on his campaign bus, I knew it was okay to document the moment.

Campaign bus, Mt. Pleasant to Fairfield, IA, November 8, 2007

Obama reads the paper during a morning briefing as his campaign bus travels through Iowa.

Convention Center, Columbia, SC, January 26, 2008

The Obamas take the stage to greet supporters after winning the South Carolina primary. It was the first primary in a southern state, and a state expected to vote for Hillary Clinton.

A few seconds after I captured him drifting off to sleep (p. 130), the mouth dropped open—and I stopped taking pictures. For me, this photograph represents how lonely a campaign can become, and what a person gives up. You are sleeping on a bus in between late-night rallies, away from your home and family.


On Sale
Sep 3, 2019
Chronicle Books

Callie Shell

About the Author

Callie Shell has worked as a photographer for CNN since 2015 and Time magazine since 2001. She first photographed Barack Obama in 2004 before he was elected to the United States Senate, following him into the White House as the forty-fourth president of the United States.

Shell documented the historic campaign, election, and presidency from a unique personal and private perspective. Her photographs have garnered many awards, including recognition from World Press Photo.

She previously served eight years as the official photographer for Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration and was a staff photographer at the Pittsburgh Press, USA Today, and the Tennessean. Her work has been published, exhibited, and collected in magazines, books, and galleries throughout the world. She lives on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, with her son and husband.

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