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Pete Souza
The Obama Presidency: A Look Behind the Scenes
Exposition by Pete Souza. Source: en.leica-camera.com/culture/galleries/gallery_new_york/
Pete Souza, Exposition

Pete Souza has a job that other photojournalists can only dream about. As the Chief Official White House Photographer for President Obama, Souza is the proverbial fly on the wall except he also carries a camera. He explains, “My primary role is to visually document his presidency for history. I do that with the experience of being a photojournalist for many years, yet I also try to inject some artistry into my photographs.”

It’s this artistry and Souza’s informative captions that make this exhibition more than just another collection of news photos. Spanning the period from September 2009 through May 1, 2011, the 56 images in the show give us–not surprisingly–a close-up look at life in the West Wing and beyond, as well as an insider’s view of the President and his family. I enjoyed seeing the lighter side of Obama, the one that doesn’t usually make the front page. For instance, there’s the “Presidential prank,” a photo of the President jokingly stepping on the scale as the White House trip director tried to weigh himself. Another photo shows Obama body surfing in Hawaii, Souza’s caption explaining how the Secret Service thought the waves were too big. Obama went in anyway. Or the time he acted as coach at his children’s weekend basketball clinic when the regular coach couldn’t be there. These photographs present a more rounded view of the President—whether it’s seeing him in intimate moments with his wife and children, or being there as he comforts victims of the Arizona shootings and other tragedies, or spending quiet time in the hospital with badly wounded U.S. soldiers. (They allowed release of the photograph.)

Exposition by Pete Souza. Source: en.leica-camera.com/culture/galleries/gallery_new_york/
Pete Souza, Exposition

There were at least two photos that stood out as examples of Souza’s artistic talent. One was taken in almost total darkness on board Marine One, the President’s helicopter, during a flight inside Afghanistan. The dramatic spot of light on the President’s face came from someone’s BlackBerry. Another memorable image was taken this past March when the President and his family visited the Christ the Redeemer statue on a mountaintop outside of Rio de Janeiro. With the Obama family silhouetted by clouds and fog in front of the statue, Souza’s shot is surreal, The image belongs in a museum, not on the front page.

Of course, of all the photos that document recent events, only one achieved instant iconic status, guaranteeing Souza’s place in history, not to mention his boss’s. Namely, the scene he recorded in the White House Situation Room on May 1 that showed the President and his advisors observing the Navy Seals’ operation to get Osama Bin Laden.

The bottom line: You don’t have to be a Democrat to enjoy these pictures of history being made. Souza’s “Behind The Scenes” is interesting, educational and worth a visit.

Pete Souza
The Obama Presidency: A Look Behind the Scenes


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Friday, June 10 to
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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery