Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kitchen Garden Portrait: First Lady & First Dog Bo

Good boy, Bo: The tomato-loving First Dog is perfectly behaved as he sits for a portrait with his mistress, created as a gift for kids who write to the White House...
The White House has released an "official portrait" of First Lady Michelle Obama seated with First Dog Bo in her Kitchen Garden. It's the first formal "portrait" of Mrs. Obama in her signature project, though she's been photographed a-plenty by White House photographers and members of the media in the 1,500-square foot childrens' vegetable education showpiece at the bottom of the South Lawn.

Neither Bo nor anyone else in the First Family has previously had a "portrait" taken in the Kitchen Garden, but there has been one official White House photo released of President Obama walking through the crop rows (see below). The Bo portrait, Mrs. Obama told reporters on Monday, was created especially for kids who write to her.

"We get so many letters from kids, who want to hear about the garden, they want to see it, and they also want to see Bo," Mrs. Obama said. "Bo is really the most popular. So we decided to do this official picture that we could send to them when they write in."

A Portuguese Water Dog, Bo turned three on October 9th. Mrs. Obama has referred to Bo as "my son," and he loves to eat tomatoes, she has said. No such hijinks are going on in his portrait with his mistress, of course, which was created by White House photographer Lawrence Jackson, an East Wing spokesman told Obama Foodorama. The lovely image was achieved in just three tries, Mrs. Obama said.

"We want to have something a little more tangible than just a letter to give to kids, because often it's the visual thing that makes it real," Mrs. Obama said, adding that the kids' letters are "inspiring," and describe changes to their families' eating habits.

Bo also has his own White House baseball card (downloadable here). He's been memorialized in White House holiday cookies (and here he is with me).

President Obama had his photo taken in the Kitchen Garden on July 1, 2010, when he led a power walk through the pea stalks. On a scorching Washington afternoon, President Obama guided Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), through the lush crop rows after they met in the Oval Office. The jaunt came in advance of the Senate's vote on the child nutrition legislation that is a centerpiece of Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! campaign. The Senate later approved it by unanimous consent. (Above: Sen. Reid is behind the President, and VP Biden is in back)

Malia and Sasha...
Despite their absence from photos taken in the Kitchen Garden, daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10, are crucial to the project. In her forthcoming book about the garden, which will be released in April of 2012, Mrs. Obama will describe how her girls "were the catalysts for change for their family's eating behavior which inspired her national initiative to address childhood obesity and resulted in the idea to plant a vegetable garden on the South Lawn," according to the publicity blurb from Crown Publishing Group.

In a March, 2009 interview with the New York Times, Mrs. Obama vowed that her daughters--and the President--would be on weed-pulling duty in the Kitchen Garden. Noted the Times:

"Virtually the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, will probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

*Top photo by Lawrence Jackson; second by Pete Souza/White House