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Images of Obama

White House photographer Pete Souza (COM’76) presents a pictorial history of our new president

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Moments after Barack Obama was sworn in as the junior senator from Illinois in January 2005, he gently lifted his daughter Sasha over a puddle in a parking lot outside the Library of Congress. Thanks to Pete Souza (COM’76), a former assistant professor of photojournalism at Ohio University, who earlier this month was tapped as White House photographer, that tender gesture can be witnessed by millions of people for years to come. Souza, at the time a photographer for the Chicago Tribune, has put that photo and over 100 other black-and-white images of the first African-American to be elected president of the United States in a book published last year by Triumph Press.

Souza, who had been the official White House photographer for Ronald Reagan, says he was impressed by Obama from the first moments he and Tribune correspondent Jeff Zeleny began working on a series about the senator’s first year in office.

“It became clear to me early on in the spring of 2005 that he was one in a generation,” Souza recalls. “I really felt, even back then, that he someday could become president, and my pictures might become a historic look at the rise of Senator Obama’s political career.”

With that in mind, Souza set out to capture the intimate, behind-the-scenes photographs that would become The Rise of Barack Obama. His work took him to seven countries, including Russia, Azerbaijan, South Africa, and Kenya. For Souza, the most moving moments occurred in Kenya, where Obama underwent a rapid HIV blood test to highlight the importance of AIDS testing, and visited the village his father was from and where he has relatives.

Souza’s book features images of the politician in settings as formal as an official meeting with Ukranian President Viktor Yushchenko and as personal as eating pizza with his staff interns.

“Photographs of politicians in public settings are innumerable,” Souza says. “But the images that often become timeless are the quiet moments captured in more intimate settings.”

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

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