By Jueseppi B.
Published on Oct 24, 2013
Peter Souza is never far behind President Obama. In fact, sometimes he’s ahead of him. As the President’s chief White House photographer, Souza is the President’s shadow.
With unprecedented access, National Geographic follows the President’s photographer inside the Obama White House–aboard Air Force One, backstage at the State of the Union, and into the heart of the West Wing. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the everyday grit of the American presidency and a chance to see what it’s like to cover the most powerful man in the world–for history. Narrated by Morgan Freeman.
Pete Souza (born 1954) is an American photojournalist and the current Chief Official White House photographer for President Barack Obama and Director of the White House Photography Office. He was the Official White House Photographer during President Ronald Reagan‘s second term, 1983–1989. He was a photographer with Chicago Tribune (Washington bureau), 1998–2007; during this period he also followed the rise of Senator Obama to the Presidency.
Early life and Education
Souza was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts and grew up in South Dartmouth,Massachusetts, from a family of Portuguese ancestry. Souza graduated with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in public communication from Boston University and a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Kansas State University.
Souza started his career in the 1970s in Kansas at the Chanute Tribune and the Hutchinson News. In early 80s, he was a photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times. He served as an official White House photographer for President Ronald Reagan during his second term, from June 1983 until 1989. He was also the official photographer for the funeral services of Ronald Reagan.
Thereafter, he continued to be based in Washington D.C., and worked for ten years as a photographer for the Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau (1998–2007). It was during this period that in 2004, Jeff Zeleny, now a political writer for the New York Times, asked Souza to take photographs for a project documenting Barack Obama’s first year as U.S. senator.
Souza covered Obama’s arrival to the Senate in 2005 and met him for the first time on Obama’s first day in the Senate. He documented Obama’s time in the Senate, following him in many foreign trips including Kenya, South Africa, and Russia. In the process he not only became close to Senator Obama, he ended up following his rise to Presidency. In July 2008, Souza published a bestseller photo-book The Rise of Barack Obama, in which photographs between 2005 and 2008 were compiled.
In May 2009 Souza began using Flickr as an official conduit for releasing White House photos. The photos were initially posted with a Creative Commons Attribution license which required that the original photographers be credited. Flickr later created a new license which identified them as “United States Government Work” which does not carry any copyright restrictions. The photos however are posted with the following disclaimer, “This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.”
He was an assistant professor of photojournalism at Ohio University‘s School of Visual Communication and later he was asked to become the official White House photographer for his second time for the new President-elect Obama. On January 14, 2009, the new presidential portrait was released; it is the first time that an official presidential portrait was taken with a digital camera. A week later he was present at the inauguration and following day he was the only photographer present for Obama’s second swearing-in on Obama’s first workday in the Oval Office.
In 2010, National Geographic produced a program about Souza titled The President’s Photographer which featured Souza as the main subject while also covering the previous White House photographers.
Peter Souza talks about being the White House Photographer
Published on Jan 11, 2014
Peter Souza spoke to Boston University prior to receiving his Distinguished Alumnus award about his career as the White House Photographer and his future plans
Souza’s 2011 photograph of Obama in the Situation Room during the raid on Osama bin Laden has become one of the most viewed images onFlickr. As White House photographer, Souza travels with the President to document each meeting, trip and encounter for historical record. Along with his staff, Souza produces up to 20,000 pictures a week.
In November 2011, Souza was included on The New Republic‘s list of Washington’s most-powerful, least-famous people.