Image: Pete Souza
“My favorite photograph is the one I will take tomorrow.”
–Pete Souza, Chief Official White House photographer
As President Barack Obama's time in office winds down, I want to reflect on a crucial
piece of marketing the president has employed: photography.
Pete Souza, the official White House photographer, has played a tremendous role in shaping the way in which Obama is perceived. Souza was named one of Washington's most-powerful, least-famous people by The New Republic, and Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post referred to him as “Obama’s secret weapon.”
Souza travels with the president, documenting his various day-to-day activities for historical record. The photographer and his staff produce as many as 20,000 pictures
each week, and nearly 2 million images will have been taken by the end of the president’s second term. Thousands of these photos are posted to the White House’s Flickr account, and more than 50 of the most memorable images can be seen in a recent article on the site Twisted Sifter.
Like many, I’ve been captivated by Souza’s images. Some have even become my all-time favorites, and I consider them on par with the work of other photographers I appreciate, including Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Annie Leibovitz, and Weegee.
I looked at several of Souza’s photos for this post, and I found they mostly fall into three categories, listed below.
1. Obama, The President: These have a serious tone. We see him meeting with
staff members, engaging in quiet reflection, making speeches, etc.
2. Obama, The Family Man: We see him engaged in tender moments with his wife and children. He’s embracing the first lady, chatting with one of his daughters on a swing, etc.
3. Obama, The Person: A variety of lighter moments are presented. Obama is seen laughing and enjoying himself either during work or in his downtime. He’s engaged in sports, joking with staffers, etc.
Collectively, these photos humanize the president and make him more relatable. We see a complete profile of the person, his life, and his work. The images have not only shaped Obama’s image while in office, but are now part of his legacy and a permanent piece of American history.
Might I suggest the future president, whoever he or she may be, persuade Souza to stay on after Obama leaves office? I'd like to see how he'd go about documenting the next person to occupy the Oval Office.
I'm Eli Natinsky and I'm a communication specialist. This blog explores my work and professional interests. I also delve into other topics, including media, marketing, pop culture, and technology.