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Peter Joseph Souza[2] (born December 31, 1954)[3][4] is an American photojournalist, the former Chief Official White House Photographer for U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama and the former director of the White House Photography Office.[5] He was a photographer with The Chicago Tribune, stationed at the Washington, D.C., bureau from 1998 to 2007; during this period he also followed the rise of then-Senator Obama to the presidency.[6][7]

Pete Souza
Pete Souza and Politics at Prose-cropped.jpg
Souza in 2018
Chief Official White House Photographer
In office
January 20, 2009 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byEric Draper
Succeeded byShealah Craighead
Personal details
Born (1954-12-31) December 31, 1954 (age 64)
New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.
Patti Lease (m. 2013)
Alma materBoston University
Kansas State University
OccupationWhite House Photographer (1983–1989)
Chief Official White House Photographer (2009–2017)

Early lifeEdit

Souza was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts and grew up in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts,[8] the son of a nurse and a boat mechanic.[9] He is of Portuguese ancestry; both sets of his grandparents emigrated from the Azores.[10]

Souza graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in public communication from Boston University and a master's degree in journalism and mass communication from Kansas State University.[7][8]


Early careerEdit

Souza started his career in the 1970s in Kansas at the Chanute Tribune and the Hutchinson News.[11] In the early 1980s, he was a photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times. He served as an official White House photographer for President Ronald Reagan from June 1983 until 1989. He was also the official photographer for the funeral services of Ronald Reagan in 2004.[8]

At the end of the Reagan administration, Souza continued to be based in Washington, D.C. Between 1998 and 2007, he was a photographer for the Chicago Tribune Washington, D.C., bureau.[7] Souza has also worked as a freelancer for National Geographic and Life magazines. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he was among the first journalists to cover the war in Afghanistan and the fall of Kabul.

With Barack ObamaEdit

In 2004, Jeff Zeleny, now a political correspondent for CNN, asked Souza to take photographs for a project documenting Barack Obama's first year as U.S. senator.[12]

Souza covered Obama’s arrival to the Senate in 2005 and met him for the first time on Obama's first day in the Senate. He documented Obama's time in the Senate, following him in many foreign trips, including those to Kenya, South Africa, and Russia. In the process he not only became close to Senator Obama, he ended up following his rise to the presidency.[6] In July 2008, Souza published a bestseller photo-book The Rise of Barack Obama, featuring photographs between 2005 and 2008.[13]

In May 2009, Souza began using Flickr as an official conduit for releasing White House photos. The photos were initially posted with a Creative Commons Attribution license which required that the original photographers be credited. Flickr later created a new license which identified them as "United States Government Work" which does not carry any copyright restrictions.[14][15]

Souza was an assistant professor of photojournalism at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication[7] After the November 2008 election, he was asked to become the official White House photographer for his second time for the new President-elect Obama.[12][16] On January 14, 2009, the new presidential portrait was released; it is the first time that an official presidential portrait was taken with a digital camera.[17] A week later Souza was present at the inauguration and the following day he was the only photographer present for Obama's second swearing-in on Obama's first workday in the Oval Office.[12]

In 2010, National Geographic produced a program about Souza titled The President's Photographer, which featured Souza as the main subject while also covering the previous White House photographers.[6]

Souza's photograph taken at 4:06 pm on May 1, 2011, in the Situation Room during the raid on Osama bin Laden, featuring Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and others, quickly became an iconic image.[18] It also became one of the most viewed images on Flickr.[19]

As White House photographer, Souza traveled with the president to document each meeting, trip and encounter for historical record. Along with his staff, Souza produced up to 20,000 pictures a week.[6]

In November 2011, Souza was included on The New Republic's list of Washington's most-powerful, least-famous people.[20]

As well as using very high end cameras for his presidential photography, Souza occasionally took square shots on his iPhone.[21][22]

Post-Obama administrationEdit

Interview with Pete Souza about his 2017 book. Video from MSNBC.

In 2017 Souza received a book deal from Little, Brown and Company to publish a book of photos from his tenure as White House photographer titled Obama: An Intimate Portrait: The Historic Presidency in Photographs.[23]

Upon Donald Trump's inauguration as president in 2017, Souza began sharing pictures of Obama on his Instagram account, often as critical commentary on the new administration. In April 2017, he had over one million Instagram followers, and reached two million followers in August 2018 as he continued to critique the Trump presidency through contrasting photographs of Obama.[24] In 2018, he announced the release of a new book titled Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents, juxtaposing the Obama and Trump administrations.[25]


Photo booksEdit

  • Unguarded Moments: Behind-the-scenes Photographs of President Reagan, Tapestry Pr, 1997. ISBN 1-930819-37-4
  • Plebe summer at the U.S. Naval Academy: photographs. P. Souza, 2003. ISBN 0-9729426-0-2
  • Images of Greatness: An Intimate Look at the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, Triumph Books, 2004. ISBN 1-57243-701-4.
  • The Rise of Barack Obama, Triumph Books, 2009. ISBN 1-60078-313-9.
  • The President's Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office, with John Bredar. National Geographic, 2010. ISBN 1-4262-0676-3.
  • Obama: An Intimate Portrait, Little, Brown and Company, 2017. ISBN 0-3165-1258-3.
  • Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents, Little, Brown and Company, 2018. ISBN 0-3164-2182-0.


  1. ^ Larson, Leslie (October 21, 2013). "Obama photographer Pete Souza gets hitched in White House who took the pictures?". NY Daily News. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  2. ^ "Michael Evans Portrait Project Collection - 1981-1984 (120 mm negatives)" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Art by Pete Souza". Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  4. ^ "Pete Souza: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle". Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  5. ^ "Open for Questions: Pete Souza on White House Photography". White House website. October 26, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d "The President's Photographer: 50 Years in the Oval Office". PBS.
  7. ^ a b c d "Faculty: Pete Souza, Assistant Professor". Ohio University: School of Visual Communication.
  8. ^ a b c "Bio". Pete Souza. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  9. ^ Rogers, Katie (November 9, 2017). "Pete Souza Photographed the Obama Presidency. Now He Helps People Remember It". New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  10. ^ "Cavaco sabia que os meus avós eram dos Açores". November 21, 2010. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  11. ^ "This Week's Podcast Interview: New White House Photographer Pete Souza". ABC News. January 15, 2009.
  12. ^ a b c Roig-Franzia, Manuel (March 1, 2009). "White House Photographer Pete Souza Has the Country's Top Photo Op: Pete Souza takes another turn as official White House photographer, this time to document President Barack Obama". Washington Post.
  13. ^ "A Front-Row View Of Obama's White House". NPR. January 15, 2009.
  14. ^ Singel, Ryan. "Flickr Creates New License for White House Photos - - May 11, 2009". Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  15. ^ The photos, at are (as of January 4, 2009) posted with the following disclaimer, "This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House."
  16. ^ Winslow, Donald R. (January 4, 2009). "Pete Souza Named Obama's White House Photographer". News Photographer. National Press Photographers Association. Archived from the original on May 13, 2012. Retrieved May 14, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  17. ^ "New official portrait released Wednesday"., Office of the President-Elect. January 14, 2009.
  18. ^ "Breaking down the Situation Room". Washington Post. May 5, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2015.
  19. ^ Yin, Sara (May 4, 2011). "'Situation Room' Shot of Obama, Clinton Nearly Flickr's 'Most-Viewed' Photo". Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  20. ^ The Editors (November 3, 2011). "Washington's Most Powerful, Least Famous People". The New Republic. Retrieved October 25, 2011.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  21. ^ The Verge: A year at the White House as seen through an iPhone's lens - The Verge
  22. ^ How the official White House photographer uses his iPhone - Cult of Mac
  23. ^ Rogers, Katie (April 26, 2017). "Obama's Photographer Gains a New Following, and a Book Deal". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  24. ^,
  25. ^ Gold, Michael (May 23, 2018). "Pete Souza's 'Shade' Adapts His Instagram Trolling Into Book Form". The New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2018.

External linksEdit