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The light was fading on the Great Wall of China, and photographer Charles Dharapak’s fingers were numb from the November cold. Barack Obama was making his first presidential visit to Asia, including a stop in China. Dharapak sets the scene: “We were positioned by the president’s staff ahead of time for the photo opportunity. The White House advance team managed to successfully hold back the officials and guides as Obama walked past us alone, forward another 30 or so feet and paused, looking out.”

Back on the bus to Beijing, Dharapak edited down the images and transmitted his 18 selects to the Associated Press from his MacBook. And that was that, until two months later when the nowinfamous billboard shown above went up in Times Square.