What would be your photography dream job?
Would it be to fly around the world and make photographs of a working president of the United States? Could you do it non-stop for eight years? Would you be willing to miss most of your own family's events for this job?
Pete Souza is a photographer's photographer, now best known as the White House Photographer during the two terms of the Obama Administration. He is lesser known for his photography as the Washington photographer for the Chicago Tribune during the Obama Senate candidacy or as an Assistant Professor of Photography at Ohio University or as a White House Photographer during the Reagan administration. His book Obama: An Intimate Portrait was released this week and I am delighted to have received a copy of it from my editor-in-chief (pre-ordered in April, as soon as she discovered Souza's to-the-point Instagram postings). Over 300 photographs made by Souza are divided into two sections: First Term and Second Term. The selected photographs are a fraction of the almost two million photographs that Souza made during this period (that's 250,000 photographs a year for eight years).
It has been said of Souza that if he is in a roomful of photographers, you can count on him getting the shot that the others wish they had. After looking through his book, I believe that to be true. Although not many of his published photographs would be considered fine art, as a collection they document the path of a president through many of the ups and downs during his two terms. Because of the depth and breadth of the images, you come away with more of a 360 degree view, almost a three dimensional rendering, not only of the President of the United States, but of the man who held that office: Barack Obama. There is no doubt that this collection also illustrates the comfort level that these two men have shared. From the onset, Souza's one requirement in accepting the job as White House Photographer was: "access to everything." He he received that, along with top level security clearance. It is one thing to claim transparency, quite another to deliver on that commitment. NPR broadcast an interview with Souza on the day the book was released. It is well worth the time to hear his own words as he reflects on this amazing photographic period.
Pete Souza's photographs helped me connect to President Obama during his first term. Through his images, I saw the man who held the office in a way that the media were never able to present him to me. He showed Obama as a three dimensional person rather than reducing him to a headline or a comment. I doubt that this will happen again over the next few years, which makes this a treasured collection of portraits that create not only a visual history lesson but a unique view into the life and persona of the man. The book is a large format (10x12) and has a hefty weight. It is an excellent example of top notch photojournalism. Many of the photographs are as poignant as only family photographs can be. That is the true mark of a photographer's photographer.
See ya around,
A quick look at Souza's recent posts on Instagram