Picturing Hope: White House Photographer Pete Souza’s ‘Intimate Portrait’ of President Obama

Photo by Pete Souza courtesy of The Chicago Tribune.

“They called him analytical and cerebral. But the lasting impression of Barack Obama’s presidency is deeply human and emotional. This is his legacy.”

~ Scott Snowman, January 18, 2017 in The Prompt

This cover image by Pete Souza courtesy of The Boston Herald.

White House photographers are not just taking pictures; they are documenting history and preserving a legacy.  Whatever your political views, there is one thing that will not change about the Barack Obama presidency: he was the nation’s first African American elected to the highest office in the land.  This was a hard-won feat that many, particularly those who grew up during the era of Jim Crow, never believed would see accomplished in their lifetime. But it did and everything else that followed was equally historic.

Now, a year removed from the 2016 presidential election when it became all too real that the Obama’s would be departing D.C., returning to civilian life and moving on to new endeavors, White House photographer Pete Souza commemorates those eight years of hope and change in a brand new picture book on Obama’s historic presidency. This book, Obama: An Intimate Portrait, is the second of three published by Souza. His third book will be released in two weeks and is specifically for young readers who, like Obama, dare to dream big.

Obama greets a White Huse employee with his famous “fist-bump”. Photo by Pete Souza courtesy of Thought Catalog.
An intimate moment between Barack and Michelle Obama in Selma 2015. Courtesy of The Commons.
President Obama in the Oval Office. Courtesy of FStoppers.
The Obama’s at a State Dinner. Courtesy of Fubiz.
President Obama making Thanksgiving Day phone calls from the Oval Office. Photo by Pete Souza courtesy of Huffington Post.

Selecting from over two million photographs taken over eight years, Pete Souza captured the highlights of the Obama presidency, like the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and the more somber moments, like having to visit parents and families in Newtown, CT after children and educators were violently gunned down in 2012. Souza wasn’t just a photographer, he became a trusted friend that the President spent as much time with as he did his own family. Souza captured every posed and candid shot he could over the eight years he served as White House Chief Photographer.  The candid shots are what make this book special; it is in these that you see the humanity and genuine compassion of a man some criticized for being “too cerebral.”

President Barack Obama holds a baby during a U.S. Embassy meet and greet in Kingston, Jamaica, April 8, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). Courtesy of Huffington Post.
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.
Souza and Obama running to catch Air Force One courtesy of Refnery29.

Obama: An Intimate Portrait was released today. There is a hardcover version and a deluxe limited edition. Both have the foreword written by President Obama, himself.  This book is beautifully crafted, like Souza’s other Obama picture books, and contains more than 300 photos— some that have never been seen before. Between photographs are personal stories, anecdotes and intimate details on what life is like in the Oval Office. Google Books says Souza captures the “exceptional intimacy and a stunning record of a landmark era in American history,” while Jonathan Jones of The Guardian says An Intimate Portrait ” tell the true story of a presidency that words have failed.”

On November 21, 2017, Souza will have another Obama picture book out for young readers called, Dream Big Dreams: Photograph’s from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Presidency.  The Rise of Barack Obama, Souza’s first book, (2008) was a New York Times bestseller. Both An Intimate Portrait and Dream Big Dreams are already Amazon bestsellers. Souza is currently on a book tour to promote this new work.

Candid Oval Office shot of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Photo by Pete Souza courtesy of Daily Mail.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image courtesy of National Archives

Pete Souza is a freelance photographer in the Washington, D.C. area. Souza was the Chief Official White House Photographer for President Obama and the Director of the White House photo office.

Previously Souza worked as an Assistant Professor of Photojournalism at Ohio University, the national photographer for the Chicago Tribune based in their Washington bureau, a freelancer for National Geographic, and Official White House Photographer for President Reagan.

Souza’s book, “The Rise of Barack Obama,” was published in July 2008 and includes exclusive photographs of the Senator Obama’s rise to power. Souza extensively documented Obama’s first year in the Senate and accompanied Obama to seven countries including Kenya, South Africa and Russia in 2005-2006. The book was on the New York Times bestseller list for five weeks.

 

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Aisha K. Staggers

Aisha K. Staggers has been writing since middle school. She had her first major publication in her local newspaper’s entertainment section while a sophomore in high school, a publication in another state paper followed. Aisha has been contributing to various paper, magazines and textbooks for over 15 years. In addition to her time as an instructor of social sciences in higher education, Aisha has served as a director of education and policy research centers, and on the staff of legislative commissions. Aisha previously served on the Executive Board of the CT Young Democrats Women’s Caucus and has remained active in politics and public policy. She is an alumni of Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT and Fisk University in Nashville, TN where she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees, respectively, and completed the South Carolina Education Policy Fellowship Program in 2008. Currently, Aisha is Senior Editor for BookTrib, a division of the literary public relations firm, Meryl Moss Media. In addition to her own work, Aisha will be writing the liner notes for an upcoming Prince tribute album and contributing a chapter to a 2018 scholarly work on Prince and the Minneapolis Sound.