In her own words –
“I distinctly remember the sound of the metal gate latching behind me as I walked out of the White House for the last time. Four years had gone by as quickly as the motorcade that I had become accustomed to riding in as one of the official White House photographers assigned to document former First Lady Michelle Obama. Twenty countries, countless cities and so many lessons learned.
When you’ve worked hard and done well and walked through that door of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. Instead, you reach back and give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. Both President Obama Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama repeated this principle countless times to audiences around the world. Sometimes the words changed slightly but the message was always the same.
Their words challenged me to think deeply about my path to the White House. What opened those gates for me? I can say unequivocally that the arts changed my life, gave me hope and allowed me to dream. And it’s a priority for me to share that gift with others.
Since leaving the White House, I have continued to work with the Turnaround Arts, a program created under Mrs. Obama’s leadership, which focuses on the lowest-performing 10% of elementary and middle schools throughout the country. The integration of high-quality arts education strengthens school reform efforts, boosts academic achievement and increases student engagement in schools facing myriad tough challenges.
The program is now run by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. And as a Turnaround Artist, I visit schools across the country to share my passion for photography and storytelling. I’ve witnessed the transformative power of the arts on students, teachers and schools.
Bringing the arts into underserved communities is a priority for me and this mission is constantly evolving. I’m currently working on a pilot arts program with a team of artists and mindfulness practitioners in Memphis, Tennessee. Our program “Be What A Bullet Can’t Be” brings arts and mindfulness practices into juvenile detention center to help reduce youth violence.
Our team of artists are enthusiastic about the upcoming expansion of our work into a non-profit social startup called “Grounded.” We will be launching our website in several weeks, which will highlight our collective works of photography, film, books, music, curriculum, performance and art installations—each piece of “conscious content” is created to spark important conversations, reduce the culture of violence and inspire positive choices.
I strongly believe that each of us can make an impact on the world—by sharing our unique gifts.”
Amanda Lucidon is an award-winning documentarian, filmmaker and New York Times best-selling author. Lucidon served as an Official White House photographer responsible for documenting First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017. She is one of only a few female White House photographers in history. Lucidon is the author of Chasing Light and Reach Higher. She is also a motivational speaker represented by Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau.
Amanda recently presented Documentary Photography: Creating a Life in Storytelling at Creative live in Seattle. You can save 20% off on the class with the code – LUCIDONF&F
*** Please follow along on instagram as well and learn more about Amanda. This year for my birthday, I am embarking on a weekly photo essay project highlighting 52 Phenomenal Women. This is week 37 of 52. Participants in this project will be supporting the efforts of Dress for Success Worldwide – Central. We are all stronger together and it is my sincere hope that we will be inspired by each other’s stories. Now is the time to celebrate as well as encourage one another. Tell your story!**