Documenting the President: Obama at Leica Gallery

Pete Souza for the White House

Pete Souza was preceded by photographers who made some of the most iconic images in political history: Harry Benson, Bill Eppridge and Platon to name a few. These photographers were given private access to one of America’s most public figures–the President of the United States. From shooting Bill Clinton for the cover of Esquire, to capturing Nixon playing a baby grand, Official White House photographers gain admittance to events that the public can only dream of.

In accordance with the upcoming presidential election, the Leica Gallery is hosting an exhibit featuring work by current Chief Official White House Photographer and Director of White House photography Pete Souza. Souza has been documenting Barack Obama since their introduction in 2005, when President Obama spent his first year in Washington DC as a Senator. Souza published his book “The Rise of Barack Obama” in July 2008, and it spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Since then, Souza has accompanied the President nearly everywhere, from meetings in the Oval Office to flights across the world on Air Force One.

Becoming the Official White House photographer can put a strain on photographers. With the echo chamber of images and media in which we live, how does the President’s photographer differentiate himself? “My primary role is to visually document [Obama’s] presidency for history,” Souza told Leica Gallery. “I do that with the experience of being a photojournalist for many years. Yet I also try to inject some artistry in my photographs.”

According to the magazine American Photo On Campus, Souza’s “biggest small moment of his current stint” was when the son of one of Obama’s staffers asked the President a question. The little boy asked if Obama’s hair was like his and in response, Obama told the child to feel it for himself. Obama leaned over and the boy rubbed the President’s head. “It happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to get the best composition,” Souza admitted to APOC. “I just got that one frame.” And that one frame was distributed nationwide.

A behind-the-scenes look at the President’s daily life can be found on the White House’s flickr stream, but if you’re lucky enough to be in New York, you can see a selection of Souza’s images in person at the Leica Gallery through November 10. The Leica Gallery is located 670 Broadway, Suite 500 and is open Tuesday – Friday, 12:00- 6:00 pm and Saturday 12:00 – 5:00 pm.

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