Pete Souza is a best-selling author, speaker and freelance photographer based in Madison, Wisconsin. He is also Professor Emeritus of Visual Communication at Ohio University. For all eight years of the Obama administration, Souza was the Chief Official White House Photographer and the Director of the White House photo office.
His book, Obama: An Intimate Portrait, was published by Little, Brown & Company in 2017, and debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It is one of the best-selling photography books of all time.
His more recent book, Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents, also debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in October 2018. Shade is a portrait in Presidential contrasts, telling the tale of the Obama and Trump administrations through a series of visual juxtapositions. Here, more than one hundred of Souza's unforgettable images of President Obama deliver new power and meaning when framed by the tweets, news headlines, and quotes that defined the first 500 days of the Trump White House.
Based on his best-selling books, Souza became the subject of documentary film in November 2020, The Way I See It. Direct by Dawn Porter–and produced by Porter, Laura Dern, Evan Hayes and Jayme Lemons–the film takes an unprecedented look behind the scenes of two of the most iconic Presidents in history, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, as seen through Souza's eyes and camera. As Official White House Photographer for both these Presidents, Souza was an eyewitness to the unique and tremendous responsibilities of being the most powerful man in the world. The film also reveals how Souza transformed from a respected White House photographer and photojournalist to a searing commentator on the importance of having someone with empathy and dignity in the office of the Presidency.
Pete has also lectured numerous times on his photography including at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Carnegie Hall, Harvard University, FaceBook, and in Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, India and the United Kingdom. He has appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, Dateline NBC, ABC's 20-20, NBC Nightly News, Morning Joe, Face The Nation, Fox News Sunday, The 11th Hour with Brian Wiliams, All In with Chris Hayes, and The Today Show.
Souza started his career working for two small newspapers in Kansas. From there, he worked for as a staff photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times, an Official Photographer for President Reagan, a freelancer for National Geographic and other publications, the national photographer for the Chicago Tribune based in their Washington bureau, and an assistant professor of photojournalism at Ohio University, before becoming Chief Official White House Photographer for President Obama in 2009.
In addition to the national political scene, Souza has covered stories around the world. After 9/11, he was among the first journalists to cover the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, after crossing the Hindu Kush mountains by horseback in three feet of snow. Also while at the Tribune, Souza was part of the staff awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for explanatory reporting on the airline industry.
In 1992, Souza produced and published, Unguarded Moments: Behind-the-Scenes Photographs of President Reagan, based on his 5 1/2 years in the Reagan White House. Former Sen. Howard Baker Jr. said in his introduction to the book that Souza recorded "some of the most intimate, honest and humanizing scenes of the presidency I've ever seen." An updated book, Images of Greatness: An Intimate Look at the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, was published in June 2004 by Triumph Books. Souza was also the official photographer for the June 2004 funeral of President Reagan.
In 1996, Souza published a documentary photography book entitled, "Plebe Summer at the U.S. Naval Academy". The book chronicles one company of incoming midshipmen through the six-week indoctrination period of Plebe Summer. His 2008 book, "The Rise of Barack Obama," includes exclusive photographs of Senator Obama's rise to power. The book was also on the New York Times bestseller list.
Souza has won numerous photojournalism awards including several times in the prestigious Pictures of the Year annual competition, the NPPA's Best of Photojournalism, and the White House News Photographers Association's yearly contest.
Souza has had solo exhibits of his photographs at the Leica Gallery in NYC; Stephen Kasher Gallery in NYC; The Kennedys Museum in Berlin, Germany; Etruscan Museum in Cortona, Italy; Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas; Fermilab in Illinois; U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; Navy Museum in Washington, D.C.; University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C.; Boston University; Ohio University in Athens, Ohio; and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. His photographs have also been part of group exhibits at the National Archives, Smithsonian Museum of American History, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Newseum, and the 92nd Street Y in NYC. His traveling exhibit, "Two Presidents: Obama and Reagan," debuts in early February 2019.
Souza is a native of South Dartmouth, Mass. He graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in public communication from Boston University and received his master's degree in journalism and mass communication from Kansas State University. He and his wife live in Madison, Wisconsin.