PBS White House Photographers Series

Talks curated around National Geographic’s presentation of the PBS documentary The President’s Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office. Pete Souza is never far behind President Obama. In fact, sometimes he’s ahead of him. As the President’s chief White House photographer, Souza is the President’s shadow. Now, National Geographic follows Souza inside the Obama White House — aboard Air Force One, backstage at the State of the Union and into the heart of the West Wing. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the everyday grit of the American presidency and a chance to see what it’s like to cover the most powerful man in the world, for history. Since the 1960s, photographic images have become an increasingly critical tool in how we understand our presidents. John F. Kennedy was the first president to have an official photographer — Cecil Stoughton — and nearly every president since then has had one. The current chief official White House photographer is Pete Souza. He also had a stint in the Reagan White House from 1983 to 1989 (but not as chief photographer), making him the first photographer to have officially served two presidents for extended periods. The presidential photographer’s job is two-fold: one, taking photographs of the president greeting dignitaries, visitors and guests; and two, perhaps more challenging and gratifying: documenting for history every possible aspect of the presidency, both official events, backstage happenings and “off-duty” private moments. “Creating a good photographic archive for history is the most important part of my job, creating this archive that will live on,” says Souza. “This is not so much photojournalism as photo-history.” Souza and his staff produce up to 20,000 pictures a week.

Talks curated around National Geographic’s presentation of the PBS documentary The President’s Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office. Pete Souza is never far behind President Obama. In fact, sometimes he’s ahead of him. As the President’s chief White House photographer, Souza is the President’s shadow. Now, National Geographic follows Souza inside the Obama White House — aboard Air Force One, backstage at the State of the Union and into the heart of the West Wing. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the everyday grit of the American presidency and a chance to see what it’s like to cover the most powerful man in the world, for history. Since the 1960s, photographic images have become an increasingly critical tool in how we understand our presidents. John F. Kennedy was the first president to have an official photographer — Cecil Stoughton — and nearly every president since then has had one. The current chief official White House photographer is Pete Souza. He also had a stint in the Reagan White House from 1983 to 1989 (but not as chief photographer), making him the first photographer to have officially served two presidents for extended periods. The presidential photographer’s job is two-fold: one, taking photographs of the president greeting dignitaries, visitors and guests; and two, perhaps more challenging and gratifying: documenting for history every possible aspect of the presidency, both official events, backstage happenings and “off-duty” private moments. “Creating a good photographic archive for history is the most important part of my job, creating this archive that will live on,” says Souza. “This is not so much photojournalism as photo-history.” Souza and his staff produce up to 20,000 pictures a week.

Lectures