A confluence of events led to the success of Pete Souza as Chief White House Photographer for President Obama. First, he’s a supremely talented photographer and visual storyteller. Then he negotiated an all-access approach with a photogenic president. Obama’s years in office also largely coincided with the rise of social media which led to accounts on flickr, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter – all aggressively updated and maintained.
A telegenic President Trump hasn’t come to embrace the still photo in the same manner as his predecessor, and I’m doubtful that we’ll see such an alignment of the stars in our lifetime. All the more reason to celebrate the publication of Pete’s new book, Obama: An Intimate Portrait.
Pete’s been on book tour the past week, and judging by his Instagram, things are going swimmingly.
And if you want to get into the mind of the photographer, here’s a little podcast interview with Katie Couric for your weekend listening.
Here’s a little excerpt:
On whether he hesitated before taking the job as White House photographer for Obama:
I recognized the historic aspect of his presidency. One of the things that I learned in my coverage of him as senator was he was a great photographic subject in that the presence of the camera didn’t affect what he did. He wasn’t self conscious at all, which was extremely important, and is very rare, especially in a politician.
KC: So was president Reagan self conscious?
He was an actor. Probably a little more so, yeah.
KC: Did he pose for the camera a little bit, because that is what he did for a living at one point?
I mean, if you go back to the Eighties, this is a time when magazines kind of ruled the photographic world. They would schedule like 15 minute photo shoots with President Reagan. You know, one week it was for Time, two weeks later it was for Newsweek. And so he was kind of forced to do those kinds of shoots. Contrast that with President Obama. He had no problem with me tagging along with him, or if there was a magazine photographer that was going to spend the day with him and they would just shadow me to get pictures, he had no problem with that. But when it came to posing for photos, magazine covers, things like that, President Obama just didn’t, that was not his thing. He didn’t like doing that at all.