White House photographer leaves the job as a star

If you know how artists are, perhaps you can understand the sort of thing that drives Pete Souza crazy.

Souza, the official White House photographer during the Obama administration (he also was the photographer during the Reagan years), took these two iconic photographs.

Photo: Pete Souza/White House Photo: Pete Souza/White House

Souza’s getting a lot of attention in the last days of the Obama administration because, we’re guessing, he’s the first White House photographer who understood the value of social media.

In his latest interview, released by GQ today, he kicks himself for both of those pictures. Because you know how artists are.

Well, I’m kind of hard on myself. So I see something wrong with probably every picture I’ve ever taken. One photo that’s getting a lot more attention now shows a little boy touching his head to see if his hair cut feels the same as the President’s.

I really got the moment right—that exact precise time, but it’s kind of a haphazard composition. And actually some people think that’s what makes the picture special, that it’s not perfection. There’s another photo of Obama lying on his back holding up Ben Rhodes’ daughter, Ella, whose dressed up for Halloween like an elephant.

In that one, I’m trying to get a low angle and so his complete shoe is not in the frame, and that just bothers the hell out of me. People overlook that because the moment’s so extraordinary. But I look at pictures like that and go, “Ugh, I wish I had been a little to the left.” You can only do what you do and try to get better at it every day.

Let’s look again at what ruined the picture for Souza:


He says he doesn’t know if Donald Trump will have an official photographer, but if he does, he has some advice.

“Remember that your primary goal is to document the Presidency for history. Politics doesn’t matter. And the social media stuff is like one little aspect of it, but what really matters is that you’re accurately documenting visually this Presidency for history.”