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Friday, 10 February 2017


Pete Souza is an outstanding long-form documentary photographer. And images such as these can indeed serve as excellent examples of how a photograph can make a stronger point by challenging the viewer to decode and thereby participate. (Shave and a haircut, _________.)

But politics aside I would advise Mr. Souza to refrain from his instagram game. I believe that it diminishes his image and makes him appear petty. Much better to do a book. A much higher-road route to the message.

I don't mean to start or enter a political discussion, but the news is that the White House has designated a new official photographer. Her name is Shealah Graighead. I'll be charitable and say she's not up to Pete Souza's standards.

Interesting post. I think this speaks to a couple things. First, the ability for a photographer, or journalist, to inject a specific viewpoint into their message. In many ways, that is well within the role of a photographer, but something that is causing great division in our culture when it is journalism. Not sure what Souza's role is considered relative to journalism? I'm guessing this image was captured well before the current administration's top advisors were selected? When he captured the image, was he specifically thinking about the President's top advisors or just that it was a cool shot with the three sets of high heels? (It's a great shot without the political message.) So this image is being used in a revisionist way to draw a contrast with the perceived male dominance of the new administration? Do we know these are "top advisors?" Is the way he is sitting in their presence something to be considered? If the heels in this image were replaced with the boots of three Generals, would his sitting position also send a message? Would that message be a fair reflection of his character? Or a fair reflection of the moment? I don't think we know. What if Hillary were elected and the one set of heels was dangling from the desk and the other three were mens' dress shoes? And if the high-heeled female President was sitting like that? Photographers with this type of access have incredible power to craft a message, a narrative of their choosing, with found moments.

So what's Pete's point? Everyone wears black shoes?

Of course Souza can post anything he wants and make any political statement that he seems appropriate, but it is already getting old. I am reminded of an old saying "Don't burn your bridges". As a working photographer he is alienating half of the U.S. population. Not a smart move in my book.

So what is Pete Souza trying to say, that Trump's top advisors do not dress in drag? ;-)

[How do you know they don't? ;-) --Mike]

I'd like to echo John Gilloly's question about whether it's the role of a white house photographer to try and be strictly neutral or whether they should, or are allowed to, let their own political views (whatever they might be) colour the photographs they take. That's a tricky one. I don't know the answer.

[Remember, though, he's not the White House photographer now. --Mike]

In my earlier comment, I failed to ask a couple more questions. Can you imagine W, Bush Sr. or Reagan as the President in that image? And what would the reader interpret if the President in this image was Bill Clinton? Would that interpretation be fair?

Just to take a recent event, in the few days prior to the election Souza could have posted a picture of a relaxed, smiling Obama or one with a bitter, serious face. I'm sure he had both those moments.

The thing is, both pictures communicate something and the photographer choses which message he or she wants to send.

So, regarding Anthony Shaughnessy's comment, I would add there's no such thing as "neutral". No one is, let alone a person who photographs politicians for a living.

I'm either blind or tone-deaf but I don't get the message. Seriously.

If I could have any job as a photographer, paid or otherwise, it would be White House Photographer. Pete Souza did a terrific job and his posting to Instagram has made the work and day to day activities of the executive branch accessible to more people than ever before.

How does the old saying go? There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and captions? Something like that. Were these the top advisers on the Iran nuke deal, or on redecorating the Oval Office? Somebody should call Souza on this, and have him say exactly who these women are. Trump's female Secretary of Education was (temporarily) physically blocked from entering a school today by protesters. We are very loving and tolerant, as long as your views align with ours.

I didn't vote for Trump (I did vote!) and don't particularly care for him, but I do think it is pathetic how eager people are to see him fail and how they lovingly obsess over anything negative about him. Souza seems to want to get his share of the love that people are showing Trump haters.


BTW, I do think he is a very talented photographer. Just hate to see him groveling to the masses like this.

Pete Souza is a fine photographer.


Maybe one of them is Hillary, making a case to invade Libya.

[Nope. And how would you know? You know the answer to this. --Mike]

The comment in the title "this is a full frame." I think hurts his supporting Obama view and turns the image negative against Obama. As in if the only part to look at for these "top" advisors is below the waist, the post-presidential marrage situation may have problems. Especially with Obamas relaxed stance on the desk.

It's sad that in this new paradigm, showing someone just being a decent person can now be called "throwing shade".

Well, whatever restrictions President Obama put on photographers, it's not like he covered the White House windows with black plastic.

Souza remained publicly neutral as long as he was on the job of documenting the Obama White House, and now that he no longer is in that job he feels more comfortable expressing his opinions. As a former journalist (not a photographer, for the record), I walked the same line for 20 years, and as much as I'd like to be in a newsroom again, I have enjoyed the freedom to be more vocal about the world as I see it.

It is important to remember that every picture Mr. Souza took had to be put in the national archives. Then they were examined by picture editors who decided what should be released. I'm not sure how much of the decision-making was in the hands of Mr. Sousa. In any case the National Geographic did a marvelous three or four part documentary on his work as the president's photographer. It showed him to be a genuine and hard-working artist. Regardless of what his political views may be, I believe the nation was well served by his work.

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