(From left) David Moore, secretary of the Ohio University Board of Trustees; Pete Souza; and Scott Titsworth, dean of the Scripps College of Communication, pose for a photo after Moore presented Souza with a Certificate of Appreciation.

(From left) David Moore, secretary of the Ohio University Board of Trustees; Pete Souza; and Scott Titsworth, dean of the Scripps College of Communication, pose for a photo after Moore presented Souza with a Certificate of Appreciation.

Photographer: Jorge Castillo Castro

Pete Souza addresses a packed Baker University Center Theatre as part of Communication Week’s annual Schuneman Symposium.

Pete Souza addresses a packed Baker University Center Theatre as part of Communication Week’s annual Schuneman Symposium.

Photographer: Jorge Castillo Castro

Pete Souza signs a book for Atish Baidya, WOUB’s digital news editor, during a reception held March 28 in the Schoonover Center.

Pete Souza signs a book for Atish Baidya, WOUB’s digital news editor, during a reception held March 28 in the Schoonover Center.

Photographer: Jorge Castillo Castro

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Obama’s chief official White House photographer returns to OHIO for Communication Week


It was a little over eight years ago that Pete Souza, then an assistant professor of photojournalism in Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication, was called upon to serve as the official White House photographer for President Barack Obama’s administration. He returned to OHIO last week for an event during which he talked about – for the first time, he said – his work with the Obama administration.

Hundreds of members of the Ohio University and greater communities packed OHIO’s Baker University Center Theatre on March 28 to hear Souza speak as part of the Scripps College of Communication’s annual Communication Week. The large audience spilled over into the Baker University Center Ballroom where Souza’s lecture was being live streamed. 

Souza’s lecture, titled “Behind the Scenes with President Obama,” capped off Communication Week’s Schuneman Symposium, co-hosted by the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and the School of Visual Communication. 

The event kicked off with a moment dedicated to honoring Souza as Dr. David Moore, secretary of the Ohio University Board of Trustees, presented him with a Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the board. 

The certificate acknowledged Souza’s committed service to the Obama administration as well as the time he served on the White House photography staff under President Ronald Reagan, and, Moore added, “for serving as an inspiration to countless photojournalism students at Ohio University and around the world.” 

“This is the first time I’ve talked about my work in eight years,” Souza said as he began his presentation. 

The former chief official White House photographer for President Obama and the director of the White House photo office walked the audience through the various moments he captured of the United States’ 44th president – moments that started a few short years before Obama would be elected to the country’s highest political office. 

Souza’s working relationship with Obama began while Souza was covering then-Sen. Obama as a photographer for The Chicago Tribune. He shared with the audience a photo he took of Sen. Obama sitting at his desk in 2005. 

“When I was taking this picture, I was thinking, ‘This guy is going to be president someday,’” Souza said as he then projected onto the theatre’s screen a photo of Obama sitting inside the Oval Office.  

“The first few months were challenging, him getting used to me always being there,” Souza said. "For five, six, seven days a week, for eight years, I hung around inside and outside the Oval Office.”

As Souza shared just a handful of the thousands and thousands of images he captured of the president and those with whom he interacted, he noted the way in which he approached the very exclusive position he held.

“I looked at my job as trying to show him as a president and as a human being,” Souza said. "I was always looking for little moments that tell you about him as a person and maybe more about him as a president.”

When asked what his future plans were, Souza said he was not sure what he is going to do next – but added that it will not involve politics.

"I haven't had time to digest what I've been through,” he added.

Souza will, however, continue to serve Ohio University – this time through a new Scripps Semester in D.C. Program that was announced in February. A collaboration between Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, its School of Visual Communication and Washington, D.C.-area professionals, including OHIO alumni, the program will create student-focused experiences in the nation’s capital. 

When looking back on his eight years in the Obama White House, Souza very humbly said he might not have been the best photographer, but he was the best for President Obama.

"I think I was the right photographer for him,” he said.

To see some of Souza’s extensive photo collection, visit his website