Pete Souza

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Pete Souza
Pete Souza at the Newseum DC.jpg
Souza prepares for an interview in 2009
Born (1954-12-31) December 31, 1954 (age 60)
New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Alma mater Boston University, Kansas State University
Occupation White House Photographer (1983–1989)
Chief Official White House photographer (2009–present)
Employer United States Government

Peter J. Souza (born December 31, 1954)[1][2] is an American photojournalist, the current Chief Official White House photographer for President Barack Obama and the director of the White House Photography Office.[3]

Souza was the official White House photographer from 1983 to 1989 during Ronald Reagan's presidency. He was a photographer with The Chicago Tribune, stationed at the Washington, D.C. bureau from 1998–2007; during this period he also followed the rise of then-Senator Obama to the presidency.[4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Souza was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts and grew up in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.[6] He is of Portuguese ancestry; both sets of his grandparents emigrated from the Azores.[7]

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.[5][6]


President Reagan and Nancy Reagan with Michael Jackson, White House, 1984, by Souza.

Souza started his career in the 1970s in Kansas at the Chanute Tribune and the Hutchinson News.[8] In early 80s, he was a photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times. He served as an official White House photographer for President Ronald Reagan during his second term, from June 1983 until 1989. He was also the official photographer for the funeral services of Ronald Reagan.[6]

Thereafter, he continued to be based in Washington D.C., and worked for 10 years as a photographer for the Chicago Tribune Washington, D.C. bureau (1998–2007).[5] It was during this period that in 2004, Jeff Zeleny, now a political writer for the New York Times, asked Souza to take photographs for a project documenting Barack Obama's first year as U.S. senator.[9]

First-term official portrait of Barack Obama by Souza, January 2009

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 Kenya, South Africa, and Russia. In the process he not only became close to Senator Obama, he ended up following his rise to Presidency.[4] In July 2008, Souza published a bestseller photo-book The Rise of Barack Obama, featuring photographs between 2005 and 2008.[10]

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.[11] The photos however are 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."[12]

Souza has also worked as a freelancer for National Geographic and Life magazines. After September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he was among the first journalists to cover the war in Afghanistan and the fall of Kabul.

Barack Obama walks into the Oval Office for his first full day in office, January 21, 2009, by Souza

He was an assistant professor of photojournalism at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication[5] and later he was asked to become the official White House photographer for his second time for the new President-elect Obama.[9][13] 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.[14] A week later he 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.[9]

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.[4]

The Situation Room (2011) by Souza became one of the most-viewed on Flickr.

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 and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others quickly became an iconic image.[15] It also became one of the most viewed images on Flickr.[16]

As White House photographer, Souza travels with the president to document each meeting, trip and encounter for historical record. Along with his staff, Souza produces up to 20,000 pictures a week.[4]

In November 2011, Souza was included on The New Republic's list of Washington's most-powerful, least-famous people.[17]

Photo books[edit]

  • 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.


  1. ^ "Art by Pete Souza". Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  2. ^ "Pete Souza: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle". Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  3. ^ "Open for Questions: Pete Souza on White House Photography". White House website. October 26, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d "The President's Photographer: 50 Years in the Oval Office". PBS. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Faculty: Pete Souza, Assistant Professor". Ohio University: School of Visual Communication. 
  6. ^ a b c "Bio". Pete Souza. Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  7. ^ "Cavaco sabia que os meus avós eram dos Açores". Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  8. ^ "This Week’s Podcast Interview: New White House Photographer Pete Souza". ABC News. Jan 15, 2009. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ "A Front-Row View Of Obama's White House". NPR. January 15, 2009. 
  11. ^ Singel, Ryan. "Flickr Creates New License for White House Photos - - May 11, 2009". Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  12. ^ "Flickr White House photostream - - Retrieved January 4, 2009". Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  13. ^ Winslow, Donald R. (2009-01-04). "Pete Souza Named Obama's White House Photographer". News Photographer (National Press Photographers Association). Retrieved 2012-05-14. 
  14. ^ "New official portrait released Wednesday"., Office of the President-Elect. January 14, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Breaking down the Situation Room". Washington Post. May 5, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2015. 
  16. ^ Yin, Sara (2011-05-04). "'Situation Room' Shot of Obama, Clinton Nearly Flickr's 'Most-Viewed' Photo". Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  17. ^ The Editors (2011-11-03). "Washington's Most Powerful, Least Famous People". The New Republic. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 

External links[edit]