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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On the Other Side of the Camp

June marks Immigrant Heritage Month -- and people across the country are sharing their American stories. Whether you've recently embarked on your first day as an American or want to share how your ancestors came to arrive here, we want to hear from you. Add your voice to the conversation today.

I was born in Somalia, but mostly what I remember are flashes of a carefree child, happily unaware of the world beyond the Utanga Refugee Camp in Kenya. About half a mile from our UNHCR-issued blue tent was the fence that surrounded the camp. Beyond the fence was an endless blue horizon of ocean. And if you stood close enough, on the slight precipice before the fence, you could see where the beach welcomed the waves — its sand, sometimes clear and brightly glistening; other times, dark and dusky, casting sad grayish hues. It felt abandoned and desolate. I never saw any people down there. But sometimes I would catch the sight of boats with colorful sails drifting over the waves.

Most of the other children congregated over at the dumpsites and water wells, fashioning toys out of trash and rocks. I kept to myself, a quiet but curious observer exploring the neighborhoods within the camp. I would often come home well past sundown, only to be rightfully scolded by a concerned parent. But those daily, miles-long excursions only left me hungry for more.

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58 Million Have Right to Education: How do we deliver?

The United States and its allies must understand the critical nature of education in the developing world. In their acts of barbarity, terrorist organizations like Boko Haram have revealed the weakness at the heart of their ideology. Their belief structure is a house of cards which can only stand on a foundation of ignorance.

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What We Are Reading…July 21, 2014

What We Are Reading West still struggles to cut feared bomb risk in Iran nuclear talks Fredrik Dahl and Louis Charbonneau / Reuters Major powers appear to have made only limited headway in making sure Iran will not be able to build an atomic bomb any time soon, underlining the uphill task they face after […]

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What We Are Reading

ASP ICYMI - Turkey should close border to ISIS, UN climate talks in deadlock, Russia halts gas supplies to Ukraine, US open to working with Iran to combat ISIS, China pursues nuclear fusion, dozens killed in Nairobi, Kenya, religious riots in Sri Lanka, Pakistan fights militants in Waziristan

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Terrorist Campaign Strikes Mombasa as Somali Conflict Spreads South

A new piece for an outlet I have not contributed to in a while, Jamestown’s Terrorism Monitor, this time looking at the brewing trouble there has been in Mombasa, Kenya and more generally the spread of Shabaab from Somalia into that country. The initial nub of this came from looking more at the cases of […] Read more »

The Westgate Nairobi Attack: A Sign of the Diversified Threat from Al-Qa’ida

My contribution about the Westgate attack for my home institution RUSI. Tries to put the incident within the bigger context of trends we are seeing within al Qaeda and terrorism internationally. I did quite a bit of media around the Nairobi attack, a lot of questions about the mythical ‘White Widow’ Samantha Lewthwaite: the New […] Read more »