Souza in 2018
|Chief Official White House Photographer|
January 20, 2009 - January 20, 2017
Patti Lease (m. 2013)
|Alma mater||Boston University|
Kansas State University
|Occupation||White House Photographer (1983-1989)|
Chief Official White House Photographer (2009-2017)
Peter Joseph Souza (born December 31, 1954) 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. 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.
Souza was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts and grew up in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, the son of a nurse and a boat mechanic. He is of Portuguese ancestry; both sets of his grandparents emigrated from the Azores.
Souza started his career in the 1970s in Kansas at the Chanute Tribune and the Hutchinson News. 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.
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. 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.
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. In July 2008, Souza published a bestseller photo-book The Rise of Barack Obama, featuring photographs between 2005 and 2008.
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.
Souza was an assistant professor of photojournalism at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication 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. 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. 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.
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.
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. It also became one of the most viewed images on Flickr.
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.
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.
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. In 2018, he announced the release of a new book titled Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents, juxtaposing the Obama and Trump administrations.