P020109PS-0339 by The Official White House Photostream
I thought I’d take a breather from highlighting a photo from our WLDC pool today. As Tom pointed out last week, Pete Souza and the White House photography team have begun sharing some of their photos on Flickr, giving us unprecedented insight into Obama’s daily life and legitimizing his belief that “to help build a new foundation for the 21st century, we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative.” He was voted into office as a man of the people, as an agent of change, and by sharing these photos with us, whether they be of a stuffy cabinet meeting or a putting practice session with Joe Biden, he brings us one step closer into his world. We’ve had White House photographers for many years, but this is the first administration to understand the importance of social media.
Souza is no stranger to the White House, photographing Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1989. During those years he had virtually unfettered access to the president, aside from the time when Reagan asked him not to photograph him putting his hearing aid in. He was witness to meetings with Mikhail Gorbechev, Pope John Paul II, and Michael Jackson, and even maintained a friendship with Reagan after he left office.
I find both sides of this job fascinating.
From Souza’s perpective, he’s allowed to follow the president anywhere he wants to unless told otherwise (with some places obviously off limits). In some ways, our view of the president is directly influenced by Souza’s photographic eye. What he shoots, the world sees, and it’s his job to document everything the president does from throwing a football around in the oval office to looking out of the window of Air Force One. While being a White House photographer is a dream job of mine, it has to be gruelling to cover the same person, day after day, year after year, always being on the go and wondering, “Do I need to shoot this? Is it of historical significance?” But in the end, as the president’s term comes to a close, Souza will have witnessed events, seen facial expressions, shared laughs, and caught glimpses into the personal life of Obama that none of us will ever know about.
From the president’s perspective, he now has two shadows no matter where he goes, someone documenting his every move for four to eight years of his life. I imagine over time he will begin to forget that Souza is somewhere in the room and begin to tune out the click-click of his camera’s shutter. As regular citizens, most of us have an incredible amount of privacy in our day-to-day lives. As you read this, as you sit in front of your computer, can you imagine having someone in the room with you snapping photos? Can you imagine that everything you do may be of some sort of historical significance? That would no doubt take some getting used to.
So take some time to go through the official White House photostream. While some of the photos are a bit mundane, there are some amazing captures mixed between them. Oh and Mr. Souza, if you need some help at the White House just let me know – I’d quit my day job in a heartbeat (and I shoot Canon).