Backstage at the Democratic Convention

Story and photographs by Callie Shell for CNN

Editor's Note: Photographer Callie Shell went backstage with Hillary Clinton on assignment for CNN at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

Twenty-three years ago, I was a new White House photographer, working for Vice President Al Gore, attending a staff welcome party held by First Lady Hillary Clinton. She announced at the event that she was changing the rules. Women would be allowed to wear pants.

At first I thought she was joking, but I quickly learned that women had not been allowed to wear pants at the White House up to that point.

On the last night of the Democratic National Convention, I photographed Clinton backstage as she changed another rule. By accepting the Democratic nomination, she became the first woman to have a chance to become president of the United States.

I watched as Clinton listened to her daughter, Chelsea, who was about to introduce her mother. The former secretary of state appeared tense, but not nervous. She was focused, aware of the weight her speech would have on others -- and I don't mean the effect the speech would have on her candidacy, though I'm sure she was aware of that, too. I mean she knew it was an important moment for women in this country.

Backstage, alone, and then in the holding room with her family, staff and friends, Clinton seemed to be a person who, no matter what would happen in the next few months -- had already won the race of a lifetime.

Hillary Clinton watches backstage as her daughter, Chelsea, speaks at the Democratic National Convention.
Clinton takes the stage on the final night of the convention.
Chelsea Clinton watches balloons drop from the rafters at the end of her mother's speech.
Former President Bill Clinton hangs onto a balloon.
The Clintons bow their heads backstage during the closing benediction.
Clinton embraces campaign chairman John Podesta. Another top aide, Huma Abedin, stands on the far left.
Bill Clinton watches the festivities backstage.
Clinton hugs a young fan.
Katy Perry, center, performed at the convention and is a vocal supporter of Clinton.
Clinton is congratulated after accepting the presidential nomination.
Clinton celebrates with supporters and campaign staff.
Clinton thanks her staff for their work on her campaign.
Jake Sullivan, Clinton's top policy adviser, fist-bumps the Democratic nominee.
Clinton celebrates with her husband; her running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine; and Kaine's wife, Anne Holton.