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.
By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 1, 2009

No time to check lighting. Forget about fiddling with the lens, lining up the composition.

Reflexes take over.

Point. Click.

Nailed it.

The photographic image snared by Pete Souza tickles the synapses, a behind-the-scenes moment of the most delightful and surprising kind. There is President Obama -- the leader of the bloomin' free world, for goodness' sake -- moving the sofa back into place after a routine photo op in the Oval Office!

Doesn't the prez have people to do that sort of thing? Don't his people have people who have people who could have handled that little chore?

Even Souza -- an "old warhorse" of political photography, as former Time photographer Dirck Halstead describes him -- can't believe it.

"I was not expecting that," says Souza, who became the Obama White House's official photographer in January, two decades after handling those duties for another photogenic Oval Office occupant, Ronald Reagan. "The president of the United States doesn't move furniture back in place!"

Ah, but he does. Souza's picture tells us so.

Souza is the photographer who gets to stay in the room when all the other photogs are shooed away -- when just about everyone is shooed away. In the pressurized atmosphere of the presidential bubble, Souza gets to disappear into the molecules, hoovering moments the rest of us could only dream of seeing.

"I don't know if 'fly on the wall' is too much of a cliche," says Souza, a 54-year-old with dark eyes, a prominent nose and thick features.

So, on inauguration night, Obama shows off his party tux in a White House hallway for the first kids, Sasha and Malia. Souza's there.

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