The chief photographer of the Obama White House discusses his work at The Getty

By Bliss Bowen

In this candid Pete Souza photo, Obama plays with a deputy national security advisor’s daughter during a 2015 Halloween party in the White House

When considering Barack Obama’s presidency, many images spring to mind: Obama bending down so a small boy visiting the Oval Office can feel that the president’s hair is like his own, bumping fists with a White House custodian; playing in the snow with daughters Sasha and Malia; bumping foreheads with First Lady Michelle, grimly receiving news of the Sandy Hook shooting, laughing with Vice President Joe Biden, and soberly huddled with cabinet advisors. Those humanizing photos did much to boost public perception of an accessible, relatable president.

The man responsible for those candid shots is Pete Souza, official White House photographer throughout the Obama administration. Souza previously served in that capacity for President Ronald Reagan and became professionally acquainted with Obama while working for the Chicago Tribune, when Obama was a senator.

Over the past year Souza has been posting pictures from Obama’s historic presidential tenure to Instagram (, often as sly commentary on whatever mad tweets or controversies are dominating the news. In August he posted a flashback shot of then-President Obama addressing reporters from the White House pressroom podium with the caption, “How a President normally engages with the press.”

The just-published “Obama: An Intimate Portrait,” for which Obama wrote the foreword, offers a more comprehensive overview of Souza’s work, with more than 300 photos in color and black-and-white.

Souza will discuss the book at the Getty Center on Wednesday (Nov. 29). That Writers Bloc event is already sold out, but a second appearance has been scheduled for Jan. 11.

Visit or for more information about “Obama: An Intimate Portrait” and upcoming local events.