Tag Archives: Osama Bin Laden

Pete Souza’s Portrait of a Presidency

The long view of history tends to be the judge of a presidency. As we approach what President Obama hopes will be the midpoint of his tenure in the Oval Office, it is too early to draw conclusions on his legacy as Commander in Chief. What we do know is that Obama’s first term has been a historic one: the first African American to hold the county’s highest office, Obama and his Administration have battled a recession, passed health care reform and legislation to end the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, formally ended the war in Iraq and brought Osama bin Laden to justice.

Through adversity and triumph, public victories and private setbacks, chief official White House photographer Pete Souza and his team of photographers have relentlessly documented the actions of the President, the First Lady and the Vice President since Obama took office in early 2009.

As the President runs for a second term, LightBox asked Souza to reflect on his time photographing Obama and share an edit of his favorite images that he and his staff made during the President’s first term; the photographs offer a fascinatingly candid insight into the life of the President while painting a portrait of Barack Obama the man, husband and father.

“I tried to, in putting together this edit, not only to show some of the high points or low points of his presidency thus far, but pictures that help people understand what he’s like, not only as a President but as a human being,” Souza tells TIME. “And how he relates to other people, how he relates to his family.”

Souza’s process is aided by his long-standing working relationship with Obama — one that precedes the presidency. They met on Jan. 3, 2005, Obama’s first day in the Senate. For Souza, then a staff photographer at the Chicago Tribune‘s Washington bureau, it was the first day of a yearlong assignment to document the new Senator’s time in office.

As the assignment evolved, Souza — who had worked as a White House staff photographer during President Reagan’s second term — began recognizing something special about the Senator. An inkling of things to come, or potential for the future. He began looking for moments that would prove valuable in the course of history, photographs that would define Obama’s early years to those who only knew his legacy.

“I was looking for things that I knew that if he ever became President you would never see again,” he says. “[Obama was] walking down a sidewalk in Moscow in 2005 and no one recognized him. I realized that if he ever became President, you would never, ever see a photograph like that. The odds of becoming President are obviously pretty slim, but I knew he had the potential. And you can’t say that about too many people.”

Souza continued to photograph Senator Obama, who quickly became presidential-candidate Obama and then Democratic-nominee Obama. With Obama’s 2008 election victory, Souza returned to the White House as chief official White House photographer and director of the White House Photography Office.

The photographs that Souza has taken extend the lineage of White House photography that began in the 1960s, first in a somewhat scattered way during John F. Kennedy’s Administration and then more officially with Yoichi Okamoto, Lyndon B. Johnson’s photographer. Okamoto is considered the first photographer to capture the presidency with an eye for history. Souza is quick to acknowledge and praise his work and that of others who have followed, including David Kennerly (Ford), Bob McNeely (Clinton) and Eric Draper (George W. Bush).

An all-digital workflow is one thing that differentiates Souza’s work from the majority of his predecessors. Although he wasn’t the one to move the process to digital — Draper, Bush’s photographer, made the switch from film to digital — Souza made the first official portrait of an incoming President with a digital camera. The Obama Administration has understood the insatiable appetite for imagery that the digital age has wrought and embraces Flickr as a means of disseminating presidential photography.

The Administration encourages sharing behind-the-scenes photos now, he says. “[It wanted] to establish a way to become more transparent than any other Administration, so every month, we upload a new batch of behind-the-scenes photos. The response has been overwhelming.”

But alongside the ease brought by the digital era came one difficulty: the Presidential Records Act prohibits Souza and his team from deleting any photographs. ”One of our bigger challenges is just the storage of all these images,” he says, noting the immense difficulty the team will experience moving millions of digital files to the National Archives at the end of Obama’s tenure.

Souza’s work with the President follows in the golden age of photojournalism’s best traditions, when photographers working for magazines like LIFE established relationships and spent inordinate amounts of time shooting beautifully crafted images of public figures.

“I spend a lot of time with [the President], around him, on vacations, sometimes on weekends, depending on what’s going on. He’s used to me being around,” Souza says. As his friend P.F. Bentley described it, “When the President is on, I’m on. And when the President’s off, I’m still on.”

Souza recalls one meeting that he missed because it had been rescheduled unbeknownst to him. “I was a little upset with the President’s secretary for not telling me that they had moved the meeting up, and [the President] heard us talking and he said, ‘What are you talking about? You were in that meeting.’ He’s so used to me being there that he thought that I had been in the meeting that I wasn’t even in. So I took that as a compliment.”

His access to Obama’s inner circle and day-to-day routine stems from the trust he built during their relationship prior to the presidency. “I’m there to seriously document his presidency. I’m not looking for cheap shots, and I think that’s the kind of relationship any White House photographer should have with the President they’re covering,” he says. “That they have a level of access and trust that will lead to important photographs for history.”

Souza is aware of the significance of the photographs he and his team are taking, but he’s also focused on capturing the small and incidental moments that make the Obama Administration unique. “There are days that you certainly think about the importance of what’s taking place — you’re serving an important role in visually documenting this period of time for history,” he says. “But at the same time, a lot of the pictures that tell you a lot about a President are not [made] during those times. They’re when he’s having a private moment with one of his daughters, or when something unexpected happens that may not be, you know, important in terms of history’s sake.”

“I think that’s what keeps you on your toes. You never know when those moments are gonna occur, because they don’t always occur when big things are happening,” he says. The image of Obama playing in the snow with Sasha and Malia is a testament to Souza’s approach. The photograph is not simply of the President but of a moment shared between a father and his daughters.

These personal images round out Souza’s portrait of the President and give it greater depth. While preparing this edit for LightBox, he acknowledged that it was hard to present what a presidency is about in just a handful of pictures. “I don’t gravitate toward any singular image right now,” he says. “I try to look at a body of work, and so I’m proud of this edit that I submitted. To me, it’s all these photographs together which tell you something about this man, this President, and I guess to a certain extent, about me and what I think is important.”

Although Souza’s edit comprises more than 100 images, it is by no means a comprehensive record of Obama’s time in office. “I’m sure that I left out some important moments,” he says. “I don’t think I included anything from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, and that’s historic in itself — he won the Nobel Peace Prize. But it just didn’t fit in with the series of pictures that I wanted to present.”

Says Souza of the President: “He has certainly created history just by being the first African-American President. Hopefully in future generations, we’ll soon have a woman President or a Hispanic President, and it won’t matter that much. But I think that if you’d ask him, he wants to be remembered for the things that he’s done.”

For Souza, it’s difficult at this point to reflect on the last four years and the photographs he and his team have made. “One of the difficult things, doing this every day, is having a chance to really sit back and take it all in. Putting these photos together helped that a little bit,” he says. “You’re a little bit overwhelmed about everything that happened in four years, because a lot of stuff has happened. I hope there will come a time where, when I’m not doing this job any longer, I’ll be able to sit back and reflect on everything that he’s been through and everything that I’ve been through.”

An exhibition of Souza’s work, The Obama White House — Photographs by Pete Souza, is on view at the Leica Gallery in New York City from Oct. 5 to Nov. 10, 2012.

Pictures of the Week: May 4 – May 11

From violence in Cairo and France’s presidential elections to flash floods in Nepal and the 138th Kentucky Derby, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

TIME’s Best of 2011: Animals in Peril

Animals have found themselves in the path of peril and at the heart the some of the biggest news stories over the past twelve months, from the Japanese tsunami and Bangkok floods to the war in Libya and the droughts in Africa. While some animals have been sent into the danger zone, the majority of these creatures have simply had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, victims of circumstance, and at the mercy of nature’s wrath or man’s violent feuds.

When U.S. special-forces stormed a compound and killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the story behind the story was that of the anonymous four-legged member of the eighty-strong team: a bulletproof vest-wearing K-9 military working dog that had taken part in the raid. Elsewhere, the mascot dogs of the Athens protests—Kanellos, Louk and Loukanikos, or”Sausage”—have been photographed countless times amid the protests. The subject of the online world’s attention, the canines have a dedicated Facebook and Wikipage, and are featured in numerous YouTube videos.

The average animal doesn’t make headlines, but countless creatures have been photographed amid the chaos and destruction so widely connected to some of the year’s biggest stories. Here, LightBox looks back on a few furry friends who’ve found themselves in harm’s way in 2011.

TIME’s Best Photojournalism of 2011

Sometimes words just aren’t enough. We realize that’s a bold statement for a news magazine to make. After all, words are our currency. Yet we know that there are times when, to fully tell the stories that need to be shared, we need more than words.

This year it was as evident as ever. From the tsunami in Japan, to the war in Afghanistan, to the Arab Spring, our reporters, columnists and correspondents worked tirelessly to bring you the stories that matter. But beyond the words and interviews that filled our pages, our photojournalists sought out the pictures that told a deeper story. Whether they were behind the political scene like Diana Walker as she photographed Hillary Clinton aboard a military plane or risking life and limb like Yuri Kozyrev as he captured the conflict of Libya’s revolution, TIME’s dedicated photographers brought the stories to life.

In March, acclaimed TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey traveled to Japan to capture images in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. A veteran photojournalist, even he found himself at a loss for words when trying to describe the country’s devastation. Yet in his hauntingly bleak images of ravaged towns and wounded families, we glimpsed what language failed to convey — and it was heart breaking.

TIME‘s words offer the important facts, clear-eyed insights and sharp analysis needed to understand the story. Our photojournalism offers the chance to not only see, but also feel the story. —Megan Gibson

TIME Picks the Most Surprising Photos of 2011

The year 2011 brought us dramatic and unexpected images from some of the world’s major news events, including the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, the violent end of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s rule and the humiliating tweet that ruined New York Representative Anthony Weiner’s career. But beyond the widely seen and iconic images that accompanied the year’s biggest events, like the death of Osama bin Laden and the shooting of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, were unusual, equally astonishing and startling images that rested at the periphery of the news. A cat with two faces, rail tracks buckled by the shifting earth after a quake in New Zealand, the police rescue of a girl held hostage by her father, a suicidal bride and beautiful, abstract images taken from space by an astronaut photographer — these are just a few of the compelling and surprising images to have emerged beyond the main news cycle this year. Here, LightBox looks back at a small selection of the underreported, improbable and astounding images that caught the attention of TIME’s photo editors.

Alfredo Jaar at SCAD Museum of Art


© Alfredo Jaar

Alfredo Jaar, May 1, 2011

Exhibition on view:
Oct. 29, 2011–Feb. 12, 2012

SCAD Museum of Art:
601 Turner Blvd
Savannah, Georgia 31401
(912) 525-7191 

To celebrate the reopening of the SCAD Museum of Art, the Savannah College of Art and Design is presenting a series of several contemporary art exhibitions featuring the work of Bill Viola, Liza Lou, Stephen Antanakos, Kendall Buster, Kehinde Wiley, Nick Cave, and Aperture-published artist Alfredo Jaar. Debuting for the first time in the U.S., the museum will exhibit Jaar’s installation May 1, 2011. His piece juxtaposes an image of a white screen with that of the now infamous photo of U.S. leaders watching what is believed to be live footage of the killing of Osama bin Laden. May 1, 2011 comments on both the socio-political power of images and the equally affecting power of the lack of an image.

Born in Chile, Jaar’s photography, films, and installations regularly offer commentary on the possibilities and limitations of art to represent global political issues. He has received many awards, including a MacArthur Foundation Award and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has exhibited at many museums including the MIT List Visual Arts Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Jaar’s work has appeared in Aperture issues 181 and 204.

Saturday 7 May 2011

photo: Chris Hondros

The New York Times have interviewed young Iraqi girl, Saman Hassan, who appeared six years ago, aged five, in one of the most famous photographs from the war in Iraq… the Chris Hondros frame portraying a child in a moment of terror after her father and mother were killed by U.S. Soldiers, after the family’s car failed to stop at a check point…

Photo: Ayman Oghanna

Articles – NYT: Face That Screamed War’s Pain Looks Back, 6 Hard Years Later (NYT: May 2011)

Comment from Michael Shaw over at BagNewsNotes on whether the paper was heavy-handed re-capturing her this way…

Articles – BagNewsNotes: Finding Chris Hondros’ “Checkpoint Girl” — Captured Again? (BNN: May 2011)

Some new Nachtwey work on Time Lightbox…

Features and Essays – James Nachtwey: The Lost Souls of Kabul (TIME LB: May 2011)

Features and Essays – Bryan Denton: Inside the Libyan Rebels’ Hidden Weapons Shop (NYT: May 2011)

Features and Essays – Ron Haviv: Haiti Hollywood (VII: May 2011)

Joachim Ladefoged’s black and white TIME 100 Justin Bieber shots in colour on VII website…

Features and Essays – Joachim Ladefoged: Justin Bieber (VII: May 2011)

Features and Essays – Benedicte Kurzen: Do-or-die Politics (VII Network: May 2011) Nigeria

Features and Essays – Chloe Dewe Matthews: Of Birds and Beasts (Foto8: May 2011) Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, China.

Features and Essays – Aperture: reGeneration2 website

Features and Essays – Natan Dvir: Eighteen (Foto8: May 2011)

Features and Essays – Stefano di Luigi: Blanco (TIME LB: May 2011)

Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. troops in Abbottabad, Pakistan, just a couple of days ago, and a lot of discussion has been raised on whether the U.S. should release photos of bin Laden’s corpse, as well as some debate around Pete Souza’s photos from the Situation room, and was it OK for photographers to snap President Obama after his speech to the nation announcing bin Laden’s death, when it was a faked situation…

Articles – David Campbell: Thinking Images v.16: Osama Bin-Laden and the pictorial staging of politics (DC blog: May 2011)

Articles – Phil Coomes: Osama Bin Laden raid: Do pictures provide truth? (BBC: May 2011)

Articles – Poynter: Reuters, AP photojournalists describe staging of Obama photo (Poynter: May 2011)

Articles – NPPA: From White House To Pakistan, Photos Play Strange Role In Bin Laden Drama (NPPA: May 2011)

Articles – MSNBC: Obama re-enacted the televised address Sunday night for still cameras (MSNBC: May 2011)

Articles – Chip Litherland: History or His story? (Photographer’s blog: May 2011)

TIME put a post 9/11 slideshow on their website after bin Laden’s death… photos by Magnum Photos photographers…

Features and Essays – TIME (various Magnum Photographers) 9/11′s Days of Mourning (TIME: May 2011) Memorials to those killed in the World Trade Center attacks appeared spontaneously all over New York almost immediately after the tragedy.  A portfolio by the photographers of Magnum Photos

Features and Essays – TIME – Spencer Platt, Mario Tama, Brooks Kraft, Chip Somodevilla et al.: Celebrating the Death of Osama Bin Laden (TIME: May 2011)

Features and Essays – Pete Souza: President Obama Monitors the bin Laden Mission (TIME: May 2011)

Articles – NYT Lens: Michael Appleton Captures the Moment When Firefighters Gather for News of Bin Laden (NYT Lens: May 2011)

Agencies – VII: Post 9/11, Defining a Decade (VII: May 2011)

Excellent piece in the New York Times earlier this week by Bill Keller on war photographers….

photo: Michael Kamber

Articles – Bill Keller: The Inner Lives of Wartime Photographers (NYT: May 2011)

Keller also interviewed Joao Silva and Greg Marinovich…

Interviews and TalksJoao Silva and Greg Marinovich (NYT Lens: May 2011)

Excellent PDN piece on photographers getting injured covering wars and the relationship between photographers and their editors…

Articles – PDN: What To Expect If You’re Injured on Assignment (PDN: May 2011)

Related…. Enjoyed this In Harm’s Way slideshow on Slate…

Features and Essays – Slate (various Magnum photographers): In Harms’ Way (Slate: May 2011)

Related too…

InterviewsLynsey Addario (Charlie Rose: April 2011)

Articles – The Epoch Times: Egypt to Libya Through Photographers’ Lenses: Forum (The Epoch Times: May 2011)

multiMedia – Conflictzone

Have your bought the 3/11 Tsunami Project app yet? I have…If you missed the info on it the first time around… here’s a reminder…

Articles – BBC: iPhone photo app aims at relief effort (BBC: May 2011)

World Press Photo days have been on in Amsterdam this week…and this year’s Joop Swart Masterclass has been chosen… Big congrats to all, especially my friends Anastasia Taylor-Lind and Sebastian Liste!

Articles – 2011 Joop Swart Masterclass

InterviewsJodi Bieber : Revisiting Aisha (TIME LB: May 2011)

Interviews and Talks – Jodi Bieber on Bibi Aisha part 1 | part 2 (David A Larsen’s Audioboo: May 2011)

Interviews – Aaron Huey : Life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (Popphoto.com: May 2011)

InterviewsZed Nelson (BMIVoyager: May 2011)

Interviews – Enrique Metinides, Mexico’s Weegee (TIME LB: May 2011)

Excellent Ed Ou interview.. found via @tammydavid

InterviewsEd Ou (Ionmagazine.ca: May 2011)

InterviewsRon Haviv hopes for the best while documenting the worst (takegreatpictures.com: May 2011)

Interviews – Elliott Erwitt’s Best Picture? The Next One. (NYT Lens: May 2011)

InterviewsSebastian Junger (Globe and Mail: May 2011)

Articles – Michael Kamber: Tim Hetherington: Photojournalist, Giant (goodmenproject.com: May 2011)

Interviews and Talks – Chris Hondros’ 2006 ICP visiting artist talk (ICP)

Simon Norfolk is exhibiting in Tate Modern at the moment…Here’s video from Tate’s website…

InterviewsSimon Norfolk (Tate Channel: May 2011)

Olivier Laurent from BJP interviewed Moby about the artist’s photography…

InterviewsMoby (BJP: May 2011)

InterviewsJacopo Quaranta (NYT Lens: May 2011)

Interviews – Jane Hilton (Telegraph: May 2011)

Articles – 6th Floor blog: The Making of a Cover (NYT: May 2011) via @AshGilbertson

Articles – A.O. Scott: On (Digital) Photography: Sontag, 34 Years Later (NYT: May 2011)

Blogs – John Stanmeyer: Why Choose a Holga? (Photographer’s blog: May 2011)

PhotographersJaime-James Medina

Guillaume Herbaut has launched a new photography website..

Photographers – Guillaume Herbaut

Awards – Amnesty media awards shortlist announced

Awards – Entries now being accepted for the 2011 Summershow

Agencies Magnum Photos May Newsletter

CollectivesBoreal Collective Magazine issue 1

Tips and Tutorials – Ten common mistakes made by photographers using WordPress (Graphpaperpress.com)