Wednesday, November 24, 2010

President's Photographer: Tonight on PBS

Be sure to catch The President's Photographer: 50 Years in the Oval Office tonight on PBS. The National Geographic production features Pete Souza, an acclaimed photojournalist who previously served as President Reagan's official photographer, and now performs those same duties for President Obama.

Did we mention that Pete was one of our first photojournalism students, way back when? He's currently on leave of absence from his normal post as an assistant professor of photojournalism at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication.

The presidential photographer's job is two-fold: one, taking photographs of the president greeting dignitaries, visitors and guests; and two, perhaps more challenging and gratifying: documenting for history every possible aspect of the presidency, both official events, backstage happenings and "off-duty" private moments. "Creating a good photographic archive for history is the most important part of my job, creating this archive that will live on," says Souza. "This is not so much photojournalism as photo-history." Souza and his staff produce up to 20,000 pictures a week.

"The job of presidential photographer is all about access and trust, and if you have both of those you're going to make interesting, historic pictures," Souza says. He earned the President's trust by following Obama on his rise to the Presidency covering then Senator Obama as a photographer for the Chicago Tribune.

Watch the full episode. See more The Presidents Photographer.

Read the Washington Post's excellent review here. Excerpt:

Perhaps only Bo the Dog and personal aide Reggie Love have better access to Obama than Souza, who is a constant presence with a couple of cameras slung over his droopy shoulders. Both Bo and Love figure prominently in some of the memorable shots Souza has taken so far; the president, we learn, is particularly enamored of a photograph of himself blocking Love's shot on the basketball court....

Without hammering the point, and with some of the more interesting behind-the-scenes footage yet of the Obama White House, "The President's Photographer" makes clear the lasting power of the still photograph, even in this tech-savvy era. It's possible that Souza's perfect picture of Obama already exists; probably it has yet to be taken. Time has a way of editing all images down to the one that says it all.

Read our previous blog items about Pete Souza, here and here. And check out his online portfolio, which also showcases his "non-presidential" assignments.

Check your local PBS listings for air times.

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