January 8, 2013 at 11:56 am

A Year in the Life of a White House Photographer

by twistedsifter


Pete Souza is the Chief Official White House photographer for President Barack Obama and Director of the White House Photography Office. He was also the official White House photographer during President Ronald Reagan’s second term.

Souza and Obama first met on January 3, 2005 on Obama’s first day in Senate. Souza at the time was a staff photographer at the Chicago Tribune’s Washington bureau. In a TIME interview Souza says he had an inkling the Senator had Presidential potential and began looking for photographic moments that could prove valuable in the course of history and define Obama’s early years:

“I was looking for things that I knew that if he ever became President you would never see again. [Obama was] walking down a sidewalk in Moscow in 2005 and no one recognized him. I realized that if he ever became President, you would never, ever see a photograph like that. The odds of becoming President are obviously pretty slim, but I knew he had the potential. And you can’t say that about too many people.” [Source]


Souza recently shared his “Year in Photographs 2012” on Flickr, a curated collection of 83 official White House photos taken in 2012. Below you will find a small selection from the album in chronological order. What’s interesting is to read Souza’s commentary that accompanies each photo. Imagine being in Pete’s position, capturing all of these moments both personal and professional. A truly unique job and a perspective that we are fortunate to have such a fantastic photographer share.


January 1, 2012

obama in hawaii jan 1

Photograph by Pete Souza

“A nice way to celebrate the New Year for the President was to jump in the ocean in his native state of Hawaii. He was on his annual Christmas vacation with family and friends, and went swimming at Pyramid Rock Beach in Kaneohe Bay.”



January 24, 2012

obama hugs gabrielle giffords

Photograph by Pete Souza

“One of the most memorable moments of the year was when the President hugged Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as he walked onto the floor of the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol to deliver his annual State of the Union address.”



January 30, 2012

obama biden clinton oval office

Photograph by Pete Souza

“This is one of those rare instances where my presence indirectly became a part of this reaction from those pictured in the photograph. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had just accidentally dropped all of her briefing papers onto the Oval Office rug and she, the President and Vice President all reacted in a way that indicated that surely I wouldn’t get a photo of that to embarrass her.”



February 21, 2012

obama bb king

Photograph by Pete Souza

“Egged on by B.B. King, at right, the President joins in singing ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ during the ‘In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues’ concert in the East Room. Participants include, from left: Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews, Jeff Beck, Derek Trucks, B.B. King, and Gary Clark, Jr.”



March 30, 2012

obama walking into white house

Photograph by Pete Souza

“We had just arrived aboard the Marine One helicopter on the South Lawn and the President was walking into the White House. I had seen this scene several times but had never been able to quite capture it the way I wanted. Here, finally, arriving at night, I was able to frame him walking into the light of the Diplomatic Reception Room, with the added bonus of his shadow being cast from the television lights off to the left.”



April 18, 2012

obama rosa parks bus

Photograph by Pete Souza

“We were doing an event at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. Before speaking, the President was looking at some of the automobiles and exhibits adjacent to the event, and before I knew what was happening he walked onto the famed Rosa Parks bus. He sat in one of the seats, looking out the window for only a few seconds.”



May 1, 2012

obama in afghanistan

Photograph by Pete Souza

“For the President, this was one of the most poignant moments of the his first term. He was visiting wounded warriors in the intensive care unit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. He had just presented a Purple Heart to Sgt. Chase Haag, who had been injured by an IED just hours before. Sgt. Haag was covered with a blanket and it was difficult to see how badly he was injured. He was also seemingly unconscious, or perhaps just asleep. The President whispered in his ear so not to wake him. Just then, there was a rustling under the blanket and Sgt. Haag, eyes still closed, reached his hand out to shake hands with the President. ‘I’ll never forget that moment,’ someone else in the room later told me.”



May 1, 2012

obama in a helicopter

Photograph by Pete Souza

“In Afghanistan, there was virtually no light inside the helicopter as we flew from Kabul back to Bagram Air Field after the President had met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. (For the photo buffs, this photograph was taken at ISO 6400, 1/5 second at f/1.4.) Flanking the President are General John Allen, Commanding General of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker. Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor, is at left.”



May 11, 2012

obama playing basketball clooney maguire cheadle

Photograph by Pete Souza

“After some early morning basketball in Los Angeles, the President talks with the players who included actors Don Cheadle, Tobey Maguire, and George Clooney, along with two of Clooney’s long-time friends. Stacy Keibler is also at right.”



May 19, 2012

obama watching champions league g8 summit

Photograph by Pete Souza

“At Camp David for the G8 Summit, European leaders took a break to watch the overtime shootout of the Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich Champions League final. Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, the President, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, French President François Hollande react during the winning goal.”



May 19, 2012

obama g8 summit

Photograph by Pete Souza

“One of the great things about the G8 Summit being at Camp David was the relaxed and casual atmosphere. When the President decided to have an unscheduled meeting with just the Eurozone leaders, he asked them to step outside on the Laurel Cabin patio where the leaders and their staff all pulled up chairs for the impromptu meeting.”



May 20, 2012

obama throwing football soldier field

Photograph by Pete Souza

“‘How cool is this,’ the President said after he threw a football at Soldier Field following the NATO working dinner in Chicago. I think he was especially excited to be on the home turf of his beloved Chicago Bears.”



June 15, 2012

barack and michelle obama chicago skyline

Photograph by Pete Souza

“We had just arrived at the helicopter landing zone in Chicago and instead of walking right to the motorcade, the President and First Lady walked past their vehicle to the edge of Lake Michigan to view the skyline of their home town.”



June 28, 2012

obamacare passed

Photograph by Pete Souza

“This was the day that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Health Care Act. Before the President came downstairs from the residence that morning, the split-screen television in the Outer Oval Office was flashing bulletins that the Court had overturned the act. Kathy Ruemmler, the White House counsel, came rushing in and told me and the President’s secretary just the opposite. Kathy then departed and a few minutes later the President arrived at the Oval and saw the same inaccurate information on the television. Kathy soon reappeared to tell the President that the Court had indeed upheld the Act, and that the TV reports had it wrong. He then gave her a big hug, as Chief of Staff Jack Lew watched at left.”



June 28, 2012

obama praying

Photograph by Pete Souza

“The President prays with a wounded service member and his family during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The President likes to make a few trips a year to Walter Reed to visit wounded warriors and their families.”



June 29, 2012

obama colorado springs fire

Photograph by Pete Souza

“The President views fire damage with firefighters and elected officials in Colorado Springs, Colo., after the devastating wildfires swept through the region the week before.”



July 5, 2012

obama kid eating pie

Photograph by Pete Souza

“‘Anyone want to try a piece of my strawberry pie,’ the President asked those at adjacent tables during a stop for lunch at Kozy Corners restaurant in Oak Harbor, Ohio. A young boy said yes and came over for a big bite of pie.”



July 14, 2012

obama talking in the rain

Photograph by Pete Souza

“The President delivers remarks in the pouring rain at a campaign event in Glen Allen, Va. He was supposed to do a series of press interviews inside before his speech, but since people had been waiting for hours in the rain he did his remarks as soon as he arrived at the site so people could go home to dry off .”



July 26, 2012

us president chair

Photograph by Pete Souza

“A view from behind the President’s chair during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room.”



August 8, 2012

oval office obama

Photograph by Pete Souza

“Overcome with emotion, eight-year old Make-A-Wish child Janiya Penny reacts just after meeting the President as he welcomes her family to the Oval Office.”



August 14, 2012

white house beer obama

Photograph by Pete Souza

“How about a White House beer? The President was greeting patrons at Coffee Connection in Knoxville, Iowa, when this customer asked him about the White House beer. The President said he thought he might have some on his campaign bus and asked an aide to check. A few minutes later, the President delivered a bottle and the customer reacted in celebration.”



September 1, 2012

obama in iowa

Photograph by Pete Souza

“The overview of a campaign rally in Urbandale, Iowa. This view was from a scissors lift just above the press stand.”



September 5, 2012

obama watching bill clinton speak

Photograph by Pete Souza

“Backstage at the Democratic National Convention, the President watches as former President Bill Clinton delivers his nomination speech, before surprising the crowd with an onstage appearance together after the speech.”



September 28, 2012

obama in the oval office

Photograph by Pete Souza

“A candid portrait of the President during a meeting, juxtaposed with the paintings of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, busts of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s a difficult angle to get because I had to sit in front of the closed Oval Office door and hope that no one would open the door and knock me over.”



October 26, 2012

obama spiderman funny

Photograph by Pete Souza

“The President pretends to be caught in Spiderman’s web as he greets Nicholas Tamarin, 3, just outside the Oval Office. Spider-Man had been trick-or-treating for an early Halloween with his father, White House aide Nate Tamarin in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. I can never commit to calling any picture my favorite, but the President told me that this was HIS favorite picture of the year when he saw it hanging in the West Wing a couple of weeks later.”



November 3, 2012

american flag silhouette obama

Photograph by Pete Souza

“I had noticed the possibility of a potential good photograph if the President were to pass by this flag as he departed an evening campaign rally in Dubuque, Iowa. So I planted myself backstage as he finished working a ropeline and managed to get one usable frame as he walked by.”



November 6, 2012

obama on election night hugging

Photograph by Pete Souza

“The Obama family and close friends were watching election results at a Chicago hotel. The President had warned everyone that it could be a very late night. Yet, only a few minutes later, the networks projected that he had been re-elected, and the President embraced the First Lady, while in the background, daughter Sasha hugged one of her cousins.”



November 15, 2012

obama is not impressed

Photograph by Pete Souza

“The President had just met with the U.S. Olympics gymnastics team, who because of a previous commitment had missed the ceremony earlier in the year with the entire U.S. Olympic team. The President suggested to McKayla Maroney that they recreate her ‘not impressed’ photograph before they departed.”



November 29, 2012

obama romney oval office

Photograph by Pete Souza

“There is closure in this photograph. I suspect that neither man really wanted to have lunch with the other, but they both knew the importance for the American people in seeing them do so. Here, the President bids farewell to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney following their lunch.”



December 16, 2012

obama newtown speech

Photograph by Pete Souza

“The President works on his Newtown speech at an auditorium in suburban Washington. Two days earlier, I had photographed him when John Brennan first briefed him on the shootings. Throughout that day, he reacted as we all did, which people witnessed when he delivered his statement a few hours later. Before we headed to Newtown for the Sunday night vigil, he went to watch his daughter Sasha, 11, at her rehearsal for the Nutcracker; he would be unable to attend her performance because of the trip to Newtown. During breaks in the rehearsal, he worked on his speech. His expression in this photograph may be subtle to the viewer, but not to me. There is emotion and resolve etched on his face, and he knew the importance of this speech for the nation.”








If you enjoyed this post, the Sifter
highly recommends:



full moon olympic rings london bridge 2012 A Year in the Life of a White House Photographer




purple lavender field provence france A Year in the Life of a White House Photographer