The Defining Photos of President Obama

White House photographer Pete Souza was there with his camera from day one
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For eight years now, official White House photographer Pete Souza has tailed President Obama just about everywhere, snapping photos—some dramatic, some moving, some funny—as the president goes about his day-to-day. With Obama’s final term coming to an end, here’s a look back through some of the most memorable moments captured on camera (with Souza’s comments below each).

January 20, 2009

Jan. 20, 2009 “President-elect Barack Obama was about to walk out to take the oath of office. Backstage at the U.S. Capitol, he took one last look at his appearance in the mirror.”

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“President-elect Barack Obama was about to walk out to take the oath of office. Backstage at the U.S. Capitol, he took one last look at his appearance in the mirror.”

January 23, 2009

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President meets with his national security and intelligence team in the Situation Room of the White House for the first time.”

March 15, 2009

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The Obama family was introduced to a prospective family dog at a secret greet on a Sunday. After spending about an hour with him, the family decided he was the one. Here, the dog ran alongside the President in an East Wing hallway. The dog returned to his trainer while the Obama’s [sic] embarked on their first international trip. I had to keep these photos secret until a few weeks later, when the dog was brought ‘home’ to the White House and introduced to the world as Bo.”

April 7, 2009

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“President Obama fist-bumps a U.S. soldier at Camp Victory in Baghdad. The President was treated to an overwhelming reception by the troops.”

May 8, 2009

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“A temporary White House staffer, Carlton Philadelphia, brought his family to the Oval Office for a farewell photo with President Obama. Carlton’s son softly told the President he had just gotten a haircut like President Obama, and asked if he could feel the President’s head to see if it felt the same as his.”

July 4, 2009

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“President and Mrs. Obama were watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the roof of the White House. What a great vantage point to not only see the fireworks, but also watch the Foo Fighters who were performing on the South Lawn.”

Dec. 1, 2009

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“He and the Vice President were headed for the short walk from the White House to the Eisenhower Executive Office building to brief Congressional leaders on his new Afghanistan strategy that he would publicly unveil at West Point that night. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had just pulled up in her motorcade and the Vice President congratulated her that her daughter, Chelsea, had just gotten engaged.”

March 21, 2010

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“Watching the historic House vote on a television in the Roosevelt Room, the President and Vice President applauded after the bill passed. It was an emotional conclusion to an almost year-long battle to pass health care reform.”

June 15, 2010

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“After the BP oil spill, the President made several trips to the Gulf Coast. Here he walks along the beach with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist near the Pensacola Gulf Pier in Pensacola.”

August 6, 2010

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President walks newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan into the Oval Office before a public ceremony at the White House.”

September 1, 2010

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“Prior to the start of their working dinner during the Middle East negotiations, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel check their watches to see if it is officially sunset. During Ramadan, fasting continues throughout the day until after sunset.”

November 3, 2010

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The day after the mid-term election, the President waited in the Blue Room before facing the press at a news conference.”

November 23, 2010

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“Late at night in the Treaty Room office in the White House Residence, the President speaks on the phone to President Lee of South Korea after North Korea had conducted an artillery attack against the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong.”

November 29, 2010

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“Meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff about repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.”

January 8, 2011

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“A terrible tragedy occurred on a Saturday in January when a gunman shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others in Tucson, Ariz. A few days later, the President spoke at a memorial service for the six victims who died and those wounded. Here he greets Mavy Stoddard, whose husband Dorwan died while protecting her during the shooting.”

February 5, 2011

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The two coaches for Sasha Obama’s basketball team couldn’t make it to one of her games, so the President and his then personal aide, Reggie Love, filled in as coaches for this game one Saturday. Here they along with Sasha’s teammates react during the game.”

March 19, 2011

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President gives the final authorization for the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians during a conference call in Brazil.”

March 19, 2011

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The late afternoon light was bouncing off the glass and steel at the Palacio do Alvorada in Brasilia, Brazil, as the President and his family arrived to greet Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and foreign Minister Antonio Patriota. I was backpedaling as I made this picture and in retrospect wish that I had taken this at a lower angle.”

May 1, 2011

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“Much has been made of this photograph that shows the President and Vice President and the national security team monitoring in real time the mission against Osama bin Laden. Some more background on the photograph: The White House Situation Room is actually comprised of several different conference rooms. The majority of the time, the President convenes meetings in the large conference room with assigned seats. But to monitor this mission, the group moved into the much smaller conference room. The President chose to sit next to Brigadier General Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, Assistant Commanding General of Joint Special Operations Command, who was point man for the communications taking place. With so few chairs, others just stood at the back of the room. I was jammed into a corner of the room with no room to move. … Please note: a classified document seen in front of Sec. Clinton has been obscured.”

July 24, 2011

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“During a break in the debt limit and deficit negotiations with Congress, the President walks around the South Lawn drive of the White House with the Vice President on a Sunday in July. As they walked, I was trying to catch them where there was one pocket of sunlight seeping through the trees.”

August 9, 2011

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President, in the process of saluting, participates in a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer of U.S. and Afghan personnel who died in Afghanistan a few days earlier. Many family members and friends of the special forces who died in this incident requested a copy of the photograph and later wrote me how much it meant to them.”

September 11, 2011

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, listen to a speaker during the commemoration ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial in New York, N.Y., on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks against the United States.”

January 1, 2012

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“A nice way to celebrate the New Year for the President was to jump in the ocean in his native state of Hawaii. He was on his annual Christmas vacation with family and friends, and went swimming at Pyramid Rock Beach in Kaneohe Bay.”

February 13, 2012

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“From early spring to late fall, the light in the Oval Office is fairly consistent with the sun high above the horizon during the day. But during the winter months, the sun is lower and splashes through the back window in the early morning and late afternoon. Here, in the midst of the morning light, the President talks on the phone with British Prime Minister David Cameron.”

October 2, 2012

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President talks with Ron Klain during debate preparations in Henderson, Nev. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., background, played the role of Gov. Mitt Romney during the prep sessions.”

October 26, 2012

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President pretends to be caught in Spider-Man’s web as he greets Nicholas Tamarin, 3, just outside the Oval Office. Spider-Man had been trick-or-treating for an early Halloween with his father, White House aide Nate Tamarin in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. I can never commit to calling any picture my favorite, but the President told me that this was HIS favorite picture of the year when he saw it hanging in the West Wing a couple of weeks later.”

October 31, 2012

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talk with local residents affected by Hurricane Sandy at the Brigantine Beach Community Center in Brigantine, N.J.”

November 6, 2012

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Official White House Photo by David Lienemann

“David Lienemann captured the Obamas and Bidens following the President’s election night remarks at McCormick Place in Chicago.”

November 15, 2012

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President had just met with the U.S. Olympics gymnastics team, who because of a previous commitment had missed the ceremony earlier in the year with the entire U.S. Olympic team. The President suggested to McKayla Maroney that they recreate her ‘not impressed’ photograph before they departed.”

November 15, 2012

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg views a map with the President during an aerial tour to view damage from Hurricane Sandy in Breezy Point, the Rockaways and Staten Island in NYC. Also onboard were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary.”

January 11, 2013

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“President Obama walks with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on the White House Colonnade after their meeting in the Oval Office. Afghanistan continued to occupy a lot of the President’s time during 2013.”

March 22, 2013

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President was visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, and others. When the President asked a question about the cityscape in the background, the sunlight lit up his hands adding another dimension to this photograph.”

April 3, 2013

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President hugs Sue Connors and Jane Dougherty, right, following his remarks at the Denver Police Academy in Denver, Colo. The women lost their sister, Mary Sherlach, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn.”

April 22, 2013

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President pauses for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.”

May 26, 2013

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President and members of the White House staff look out the window of Air Force One to view tornado damage over Moore, Oklahoma. After landing at Tinker Air Base, the President did a walking tour of the damage and met with those affected.”

June 14, 2013

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President called me over to pose for a photo with a young boy who had fallen asleep during the Father’s Day ice cream social in the State Dining Room of the White House.”

June 19, 2013

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“A beautiful evening just after sunset as the President and and First Lady boarded Air Force One at Tegel Airport prior to departing Berlin, Germany.”

October 18, 2013

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“Light matters. The paper that the President was writing on provided some fill light as he worked at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.”

February 11, 2014

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“Ever the gentleman, the President helps the First Lady off the stage after she thanked the White House chefs during the State Dinner for President François Hollande of France on the South Lawn of the White House.”

June 6, 2014

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin after a lunch with other foreign leaders to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France. I’m sure they were talking about a subject matter other than D-Day.”

June 9, 2014

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President sits for a 3D portrait being produced by the Smithsonian Institution. There were so many cameras and strobe lights flashing but the end result was kind of cool.”

June 9, 2014

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“Chief of Staff Denis McDonough came to the Oval Office one afternoon and said to the President, ‘let’s take a walk.’ So they proceeded outside the White House gates to a Starbucks on Pennsylvania Avenue. On the way back, the President stopped to greet street vendor Saied Abedy, who was born in Afghanistan. I later selected this photograph to hang as a ‘jumbo’ print on the walls of the West Wing. Several months later, after the jumbo print had been replaced with a newer photograph, we were tipped off that a White House staff member was giving Mr. Abedy and his family a tour of the West Wing one night. So we retrieved the jumbo print of him and hung it back on the walls of the West Wing. I later heard how emotional his family became when they saw the photograph on their tour.”

June 23, 2014

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“This was a photograph that went viral when we posted it on Flickr. Lawrence Jackson captured a young boy face-planting himself onto the sofa in the Oval Office as the President greets his parents–a departing United States Secret Service agent and his wife.”

June 29, 2014

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President shares a quiet moment with his daughter Sasha during a father and daughter hike at Great Falls, Virginia.”

July 17, 2014

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“Secure communications are always available to the President wherever he travels. The President happened to be in New York when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in Ukraine, apparently shot down. In a holding room, the President held a conference call with CIA Director John Brennan and his national security team to discuss the U.S. response. Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer and Anita Decker Breckenridge, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, monitored updates on their Blackberrys.”

July 29, 2014

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“Sometimes you get lucky as a photographer. The President was greeting the crowd outside Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque in Kansas City. As he began talking to a young boy, actually giving him some life advice, someone’s smart phone briefly illuminated the President’s face. Without this light, the photograph wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.”

October 24, 2014

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“When Nina Pham walked into the Oval Office, the President gave her a big hug as her family and White House Dr. Ronny Jackson watched. Nina, a Dallas nurse diagnosed with Ebola after caring for an infected patient in Texas, was being treated at the National Institutes of Health in nearby Bethesda, Maryland, and the President invited her to the White House when she was released after being declared Ebola-free.”

March 7, 2015

Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson

“For Presidential trips, I usually have another White House photographer accompany me so he or she can preset with the press and obtain angles that I can’t, as I usually stay close to the President. Lawrence Jackson made this iconic image from the camera truck as the First Family joined others in beginning the walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.”

March 27, 2015

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The First Lady snuggled against the President during a video taping for the 2015 World Expo in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House.”

April 9, 2015

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President’s wave aligns with a rainbow as he boards Air Force One at Norman Manley International Airport prior to departure from Kingston, Jamaica.”

June 26, 2015

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“Following the mass shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C., that claimed nine lives, the President pauses while giving the eulogy at the funeral of one of the victims, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, at the College of Charleston. Rev. Pinckney’s family is seated in the front row at lower left.”

June 26, 2015

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“It was a festive atmosphere as the White House was lit with the colors of the rainbow in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. I chose this angle from several options because I like that much of the White House staff had stayed late on a Friday night to take part in the celebration.”

July 16, 2015

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“In July the President became the first sitting President to visit a federal prison. Here the President departs El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma with Valerie Jarrett and Secret Service agent Rob Buster.”

July 18, 2015

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President greets the cast and crew of ‘Hamilton’ after seeing the play with his daughters at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City.”

August 4, 2015

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The President reacts to a comment during a meeting in the Cabinet Room with American Jewish community leaders to discuss the Iran nuclear agreement.”

September 23, 2015

Official White House photo by David Lienemann

“David Lienemann scoped out a great vantage point from the Blue Room Balcony to capture this moment as the President and First Lady escorted Pope Francis back inside the White House following the State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn.”

November 30, 2015

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“After arriving in France to attend the Climate Change Summit, the President, with French President François Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, made an unannounced stop just after midnight at the memorial in front of le Batacian, the site of a Paris terrorist attack.”

March 22, 2016

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“President Barack Obama and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice talk on the phone with Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco to receive an update on a terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium. The President made the call from the residence of the U.S. Chief of Mission in Havana, Cuba.”

June 15, 2016

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“President Barack Obama greets His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the entrance of the Map Room of the White House.”

November 24, 2016

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“President Barack Obama makes Thanksgiving Day phone calls from the Oval Office to U.S. troops stationed around the world.”

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