Chief White House photographer Pete Sousa has taken somewhere around two million images of President Barack Obama, and as the president’s term ends on Friday, the two-time presidential photographer shares how he wants the 44th president of the United States to be remembered: as a human being.
“One of the things I’m trying to do is show him as a human being, not just a president,” Souza said in a recent interview with CBS.
During the past eight years, Souza, who also photographed Ronald Reagan, has taken as many as 2,000 images a day as he captured both political and day-to-day life in the White House.
Souza first photographed Obama as a senator while working for the Chicago Tribune, later photographing the moment Obama announced his candidacy. Obama offered Souza the job as his official photographer in 2009.
“Not only does he have an amazing eye, not only are his pictures evocative, accurate, and creative, but he’s also become a great friend and someone I trust,” Obama said of Souza.
Souza’s job ranged from covering political moments like meeting with the Pope, to the day-to-day moments. Some of Souza’s favorites included several of Obama taking the time to interact with the children of other White House staffers and the moment the president sat down on the same bus where Rosa Parks sat in the “Whites Only” section. Souza recalled running to get the shot the moment Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama held hands for just a few seconds at the commemoration of the Civil Rights March.
While Souza had to be ready to capture the right moments, he also aimed to work without intruding on the moment, saying he had to use intuition to know when the moment needed to be captured — and when it called for space.
Along with working as the official White House photographer twice, Souza has worked as an assistant professor of photojournalism and as a freelance photographer with images published in National Geographic, Life Magazine, Fortune, and Newsweek.