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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Asked and Answered: A World War II Veteran Writes the President

We periodically feature an exchange between the President and an American who wrote him. Check back soon for more — and if you'd like to write the President yourself, you can do so here.

I work in the Office of Presidential Correspondence, and one of the most rewarding parts of my job is helping process correspondence from our nation’s veterans.

On the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day), I wanted to share with you one of the thousands of letters the President has received from WWII veterans and their families. The President was raised with the help of his grandparents — a veteran who served in the European Theater during WWII, and a Rosie the Riveter who worked on a bomber assembly line during the war. And I think partly for that reason, this mail always seems to really grab the President’s attention.

Below is one of these letters. World War II veteran Ernest Lovato of Albuquerque, New Mexico wrote the President to thank him for a visit to the Southwest, and shared photos of two of the B-17 Flying Fortresses he painted while serving in the Army Air Corps' 100th Bombardment Group. The President responded — and he included a photograph of his own.

Today, as we watch World War II-era planes fly over the White House in honor of the anniversary of V-E Day, we pay tribute to all those like Mr. Lovato and the President’s grandmother, who helped build and maintain these planes helping lead the Allied forces to victory. And we solemnly remember all those we lost, remaining deeply humbled by all those who served.

Take a look at Mr. Lovato's letter, and the amazing photos he enclosed — including the B-17s he painted during WWII and the charming photo from his wedding day 72 years ago:

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