What It Takes To Be A White House Photographer

Pete Souza is one of the most well-known photographers in the world mainly due to his work as the photographer for United States Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. In this 5-minute video, he explains what is required of someone in that role.

Souza’s first job in the White House was photographing President Ronald Reagan, but Souza did not just become a “White House Photographer” after that. When that position concluded, Souza transitioned to working as a photographer for National Geographic and the national photographer for the Chicago Tribune. His next major political role wouldn’t happen for several years later.

As part of the role at the Tribune, he accepted an assignment in 2004 which involved documenting the rise of an up-and-coming senator in 2004 named Barack Obama. Souza gained unique access to locations as a part of this assignment, even following Senator Obama to five different countries. Souza says that as a result, he got to know the future president “pretty well professionally.”

Because of that relationship, when Senator Obama was elected to the presidency, he asked Souza to become his photographer. “Without the trust, you can’t get the access,” Souza said. “If not for that, there was no way I would have had some of the access that I did.”

He often followed Obama seven days a week. “I was with him like, every day.”

Because of his dedication to the job and the fact he almost never left his side, Souza was able to capture some of the most compelling images of the presidency one can imagine. From war room photos, to meet and greets, to everything in between, Souza’s photos are great because he never let himself stray from being where the action would happen.

That kind of dedication to the job is what makes it hard. “It was both physically and mentally exhausting,” he said. “To essentially, put your personal life on hold for eight years.”

Speaking about politics, Souza says he doesn’t care about party affiliation. “This job is about documenting the presidency for history. All the other stuff just doesn’t matter.”

Though interviews with Souza aren’t uncommon, few take the particular angle that Business Insider does here. There is a lot to learn about what is expected of a White House photographer, what it took to get to that point, and what kinds of situations become available to you through the hard work and dedication to the craft. “it’s not one of those jobs that you apply for,” Souza says. “They come looking for you.”

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