DPP Home Profiles Pete Souza: Master Of The White house

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pete Souza: Master Of The White house

Pete Souza has been official photographer to two U.S. presidents. His access and an ability to catch intimate moments enable him to create images that illustrate history.

This Article Features Photo Zoom
Pete Souza worked in the White House during the Ronald Reagan and the Barack Obama administrations amidst a dramatically changing world and rapid advances in photography. Above: President Obama talks with advisors in the Oval Office before a phone call with President Ondimba of Gabon, April 4, 2011.

In 1846, James Polk became the first president to be photographed, but it wasn't until the Kennedy administration that the first official White House photographer was appointed. Pete Souza has one of the most unique jobs in the world. He's Chief Official White House Photographer and Director of the White House Photography Office for President Obama's administration.

President Reagan works alone in the Oval Office in 1987.
This isn't Souza's first term in the White House, however, having served as a staff photographer for President Reagan. Souza's book Images of Greatness: An Intimate Look at the Presidency of Ronald Reagan was published in June 2004 by Triumph Books. Ironically, that same month, Souza was the official photographer for the June 2004 funeral of President Reagan. Souza's book The Rise of Barack Obama (Triumph Books) illustrates the 44th U.S. president's road to the White House by documenting his first year in the Senate. Now Souza is recording President Obama's time in the Oval Office.

Souza has won numerous photojournalism awards in and out of the White House, including the prestigious Pictures of the Year International annual competition, the National Press Photographers Association's Best of Photojournalism and the White House News Photographers Association's yearly contest. Originally from South Dartmouth, Mass., Souza graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in public communication from Boston University and a master's degree in journalism and mass communication from Kansas State University.

DPP: How does one become a White House photographer?

Pete Souza: In every case, it's different. For me, I got to know Senator Obama when he first became a Senator and I was based in Washington, D.C., working for the Chicago Tribune. I spent a lot of time with him because we were doing a feature on his first year in the Senate. I got to know him; he got to know me. He liked the way I worked, and he liked my photos. So one thing led to another. When he was elected president, he asked me to be his photographer.

DPP: Did you hire additional staff? You can't work 24 hours a day.

Souza: Sometimes I feel like I do! I did hire staff—three other photographers, a couple of editors and someone to handle the paperwork. It's pretty much a seven-day-a-week job, though I try to take Sundays off. If he goes golfing, I'll have someone else cover it. I've taken one weekday off in the last two years.


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