Behind the Lens: Photographing the President in 50 Countries

Today, President Obama visits Kenya — the 50th country he has visited during his Administration. It’s also my 50th country traveling with the President.

To mark the occasion, as I did when the President visited his 50th state, I chose one photograph from each country that we’ve visited.

Traveling abroad with the President is very different.

Often times, I am at the mercy of the host country for access. Some countries are more accommodating to me than others. I am lucky to have counterpart official photographers in many countries who are extremely helpful to me in this regard. I of course try to return the help to them when they visit the White House with their head of state.

We’re also rarely in any one country for more than a couple of days, which gives us only a partial glimpse of each place. And because of security, the sites we are able to visit are often limited too.

All that said, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to visit the Pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, the Great Wall in China, Petra in Jordan, and the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar (Burma). (So I really shouldn’t complain too much.)

I hope you enjoy this gallery. And stay tuned — we’ll be adding a photograph from Kenya and additionally, Ethiopia, following his visit next week.

Afghanistan, 2012

Boarding Air Force One at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Oldest Living Veteran Meets the President

This afternoon, President Obama invited 110-year-old Emma Didlake -- believed to be the country's oldest living veteran -- to the Oval Office. "It's a great honor to have her here." the President said.

President Obama meets the nation's oldest vet, Emma Didlake

President Barack Obama greets the nation’s oldest living veteran, Emma Didlake, in the Oval Office, July 17, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Emma Didlake was a 38-year-old wife and mother when she decided she wanted to join the military. In 1943, she signed up for the Women’s Auxiliary Corp (WAC) and served as an Army private and driver for almost a year during World War II.

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President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Shooting in South Carolina

Last night, a gunman opened fire at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people including pastor and state senator Clementa Pinckney. The Department of Justice is opening a hate crime investigation into this tragedy.&... Read more »

Dr. Jill Biden Sponsors and Christens the USS Gabrielle Giffords

On Saturday in Mobile, Alabama, Dr. Jill Biden took part in the christening ceremony for the USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10). The ship is named after former Congresswoman and Navy spouse Gabby Giffords. In the words of Dr. Jill Biden, Gabby is part of ... Read more »

Behind the Lens: Photographing an American Hero

Six years ago — on June 6, 2009 — I photographed Cory Remsburg for the first time.

It was amid a whirlwind day in France for President Obama — and for me. We’d had an event with U.S. embassy personnel in Paris; a flight on Air Force One from Paris to Caen; a state visit with then-President Sarkozy; a picturesque helicopter ride into Normandy; the 65th anniversary of D-Day; a helicopter, then a plane ride back to Paris; and finally a tour with the Obama family at the Cathedral de Notre Dame. The President and First Lady greeted hundreds of people that day, including a small group of Army Rangers in Normandy.

Eight months later, I accompanied the President as he made his regular quarterly trip to visit wounded warriors at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. The 10th patient he visited that day did not at all look familiar to me. The patient, an Army Ranger, had suffered a severe brain injury caused by a roadside explosion in Afghanistan.

His name was Cory Remsburg.

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Behind the Lens: Photographing the President in 50 States

This week, the President will visit South Dakota, marking the 50th state he has visited during his administration (as such, it's also my 50th state with him). To mark the occasion, I chose one photograph from each state that we’ve visited. This was not as easy as I thought it would be. With help from photo editor Phaedra Singelis, I tried to depict a variety of situations. Some are more lighthearted; some are sad, and some are poignant. Some are with the Vice President; some are with the First Lady, and a couple are with the entire family. A selection of photos are centered on policy, and others on politics. Some focus on the President as Commander-in-Chief -- others on his role as consoler for the nation.

I hope you enjoy this gallery. And stay tuned -- we’ll be adding a photograph from South Dakota following his visit there on Friday.

Alabama, March 7, 2015. Marching at the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Alabama, March 7, 2015. Marching at the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Alaska. Nov 12, 2009. Air Force One refueling at Elmendorf Air Force Base. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Alaska. Nov 12, 2009. Air Force One refueling at Elmendorf Air Force Base. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Arizona, Aug. 16, 2009. Viewing the Grand Canyon. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Arizona, Aug. 16, 2009. Viewing the Grand Canyon. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

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Behind the Lens: Somewhere Under the Rainbow

When people ask me how I do what I do, I often recite the words of Bob Dylan: “I was just doing what I could with what I had where I was.” That kind of sums up my approach to my job as the President's photographer.

Every once in a while, you also just get very lucky. Such was the case last week, when a rainbow came along just as the President’s helicopter was arriving at the airport in Kingston, Jamaica, where he would board Air Force One for the flight to Panama. Fortunately, I was manifested aboard the second helicopter–which always arrives before Marine One–giving me a few minutes to prepare for photographing the rainbow.

In the first photograph, I framed the rainbow above Marine One as the President disembarked the helicopter.

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State and Local Officials in the South Speak Up to Fix the Broken Immigration System

Ed. note: This post is the first in a series of five. Check back on the White House Blog throughout the week for more statements from leaders around the country.

Across the country, Democratic and Republican state and local officials are speaking out about the need for commonsense immigration reform. This week, we’ll share thoughts from governors, mayors, county executives, state legislators, attorneys general, treasurers and more about why they support immigration reform and how fixing the broken immigration system would impact their communities.

“For too many years our country has struggled to find an effective solution to immigration reform, with the central issue being the question of how to deal with undocumented workers.  We have been encouraged, however, that in recent months a bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators has been working together to establish a path that allows those workers, the great majority of whom are hard-working dignified individuals, to become lawful tax-payers.  It is important for the continued growth and competitiveness of our country that we find a solution to this issue, and I urge Congress to continue working together to establish a fair, but humane, solution that establishes such a path.”

Miami-Dade, Florida Mayor Carlos Gimenez

“There is no doubt that the economic, social and cultural contributions of immigrants continue to enrich our cities and communities. We cannot ever forget that immigrants have helped make our nation stronger. This is an issue of great importance here in Georgia, and as such, I support President Barack Obama’s proposal to achieve meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform.”

Atlanta, Georgia Mayor Kasim Reed

“In Birmingham, we recognize the value of diversity. We strive to be inclusive and to give a sense of respect for all cultures and all races. Here in the cradle of the Civil Rights struggle, our history mandates that we embrace all cultures and ensure that all are treated equally and fairly and with the honor they deserve.”

Birmingham, Alabama Mayor William Bell

“Louisville is a growing international city in the heartland of America. Comprehensive immigration reform is essential for us to spur entrepreneurism and grow jobs. America's population represents all of the immigrants of the world. The quicker immigration reform is addressed and resolved, the quicker our international competitive economic advantage will accelerate.”

Louisville, Kentucky Mayor Greg Fischer

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Weekly Wrap-Up: “We’ve Got Your Back”

Watch the West Wing Week here.

“You’ve met the mission”: President Obama spoke in Annapolis, Maryland last Friday to deliver the commencement address to the U.S. Naval Academy’s class of 2013. In his address, the President congratulated the graduates for taking their oath, and praised them for meeting the mission of the Academy and proving themselves morally, mentally, and physically.

“So, Class of 2013, in your four years by the Bay, you’ve met every test before you. And today is the day that you’ve been counting down to for so long. You will take your oath. Those boards and gold bars will be placed on your shoulders. And as your Commander-in-Chief, I congratulate each of you on becoming our newest officers -- ensigns in the United States Navy, second lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps.  

The Savoy School: Actress Kerry Washington joined First Lady Michelle Obama at the Savoy School in Washington, D.C. on Friday. The school was selected for the Turnaround Arts Initiative at the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities last year. While visiting, the First Lady played freeze dance and checked out art projects created by a fifth grade class.

"When you work hard and you invest thousands of hours in anything, you get better.  And that’s what you guys are learning here at Savoy.  Hopefully you are learning that with your math, with your reading, with your dancing, with your singing, it's about the amount of effort that you want to put into anything."

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Tracking the Response to Isaac

(August 28 - Personnel in the National Guard Command Center in Arlington, Va., monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Isaac as it makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico. The NGCC, which serves as a hub that provides an overall tracking a... Read more »