Obama’s Photographer Joins Instagram

Pete Souza

On July 24, Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer, joined Instagram. However, his first photo was not of the President, but the instantly-recognizable Presidential Seal, along with the caption: “My maiden voyage on Instagram. Will bring you behind-the-scenes of the Presidency.” His second picture? Presidential grapes.

Since then, @petesouza has documented the inner workings of the White House and its staff, from Marine One’s shadow to the Presidential dog – Bo. Souza talked with TIME’s international picture editor, Patrick Witty, about Instagram and what we can expect to see on his feed (more Bo) and what we won’t see (selfies).

What made you take the plunge and open an Instagram account?
The digital folks here at the White House have been asking me to do this for some time and I thought the time was right to finally take the plunge.

How will your Instagram photos differ from what we see on the Flickr feed?
These will all be photos from the iPhone. Since my primary function will always be photographing with my regular cameras, the Instagram photos will be more from situations away from the primary action.

Are all of the pictures on your Instagram account from an iPhone?
Yes.

I thought it was really interesting you opened your account with a photo of the Presidential seal, then went directly to a food photograph. It gave me the impression that the Instagram feed would maybe be lighter, more fun perhaps.
When we decided to begin, it was on a day that the President was traveling. So I purposely began with the Presidential seal on Air Force One as a way to introduce this account. The first thing I usually do when I get on-board the plane is grab a couple of grapes. So I guess I was telling viewers with this second photo that this account would also be a bit more fun and personal than the photographs we post to Flickr.

I haven’t seen a video from you yet – are you planning on giving it a try?
I never rule anything out.

One thing I noticed and appreciated (that’s not really related to Instagram) is that you really engage with people on Twitter, answering technical camera questions and engaging with people.
I had a lag in the schedule one day and I noticed that a couple of people on Twitter had asked me some technical questions. So I went ahead and answered them. Which of course spurned more questions, and my responding to those. I will continue to do that when I can and when the questions posed are unrelated to politics or policy.

The Instagrams of Bo are excellent – how is he as a subject?
I love Bo especially because we’re both of Portuguese descent. That said, photographing a dog with black hair is certainly a challenge.

Do you have a favorite Instagram filter?
My favorite filter is no filter. I think I’ve used Lo-Fi a couple of times.

Are you going to do any selfies?
Doubtful.

Have people around the White House noticed you on your phone more? And if so, what do they say?
Bo was complaining about this just yesterday.


Pete Souza is President Obama’s official photographer. LightBox previously featured Souza’s selection of his best images from the President’s first term in ‘Portrait of a Presidency.’

Patrick Witty is the International Picture Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @patrickwitty.


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