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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No Shangri-La in South China Sea

On Saturday in Singapore, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter addressed the attendants at the 14th Shangri-La Dialogue, a high-level security forum, asserting China’s recent land reclamation in the South China Sea was "out of step" with international norms, and adding his opposition to “any further militarization” in the region. Read more »

U.S. Confronts China Over Airspace in South China Sea

I had not given much thought to the flight plan of the airline I recently booked to go back to the U.S. from Vietnam, but recent events in the airspace over the South China Sea prompted an online search. As I discovered, my commercial flight will be flying not far from where a U.S. surveillance plane was warned on Wednesday to leave by a Chinese radar operator. Read more »

The President Wraps Up Trip in Burma, Heads to Australia

President Obama Walks Toward Air Force One in Burma

President Barack Obama walks towards Air Force One past honor guards and a group of representatives from Burmese ethnic groups before departing from Naypyitaw International Airport in Burma. November 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama has spent the week traveling in China, Burma, and Australia to help further the U.S. rebalancing strategy and his firm belief that our economic ties to the Asia Pacific region are integral to America's economic growth.

After securing a historic agreement with China to reduce carbon pollution, the President traveled to Naypyitaw and Rangoon, Burma for the East Asia Summit, the U.S.-ASEAN Summit, and for a bilateral meeting with Burmese President Thein Sein. 

Two years ago, President Obama became the first American president to visit this country. On this visit, both Presidents discussed the progress that Burma has made in the pursuit of a more open democracy and the work that's left to do: 

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President Obama Responds to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Update at 10:38 p.m. ET: The Press Secretary released a statement on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.

President Obama calls to President Poroshenko of Ukraine aboard Air Force One

President Obama calls to President Poroshenko of Ukraine aboard Air Force One to discuss the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. July 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This afternoon, aboard Air Force One, President Obama placed separate telephone calls to President Poroshenko of Ukraine and Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia to discuss the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Here's a readout of the President’s call with President Poroshenko of Ukraine:

President Obama spoke with Ukrainian President Poroshenko this afternoon to discuss the tragic crash of flight Malaysian Airlines 17. President Poroshenko welcomed the assistance of international investigators to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation of the crash site. President Obama assured him that U.S. experts will offer all possible assistance immediately. The Presidents emphasized that all evidence from the crash site must remain in place on the territory of Ukraine until international investigators are able to examine all aspects of the tragedy.

And a readout of President Obama’s call with Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia:

President Obama called Malaysian Prime Minister Najib today to express condolences to the people of Malaysia for the terrible loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine, as well as all the families who lost loved ones in this tragic event. The President told the Prime Minister that United States has offered immediate assistance to support a prompt international investigation. President Obama reaffirmed the strength of the friendship between the United States and Malaysia and underscored that the United States stands ready to provide any assistance or support necessary.

Bernadette Meehan is Deputy Spokesperson of the National Security Council.

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Getting to the Bottom of Explosive Rumors Concerning Noordin Top

by Chris Lundry Dwarfed by the stories of the earthquake tragedy in Padang, yesterday Indonesian media picked up a sensational statement issued at the Jakarta police headquarters. According to police spokesman Nanan Sukarna, police investigators have discovered evidence that the corpse of Jemaah Islamiyah’s Noordin Top showed signs of anal trauma consistent with sodomy, leading to speculation that he might have been bisexual. The article (published by began curiously by differentiating investigatory police and police doctors, and […] Read more »

Noordin Top and Latent Conflict Between Indonesia and Malaysia

The 17 September death of Noordin Top at the hands of Indonesia’s anti terror squad Densus 88 brought a sense of relief to many in Southeast Asia. Noordin was Southeast Asia’s most wanted terrorist. Following the July 17 hotel bombings in Jakarta, a message attributed to him signaled a split from Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and a move toward more radical and deadly tactics. A not-so-subtle subtext of Noordin’s death is the strained relationship of Indonesia […] Read more »

Malaysian fatwas: No tomboys, no yoga

by Norman Vasu* Here is a brief report on two recent Fatwas from Malaysia that are raising some eyebrows.  The first one was issued on October 23, 2008.  Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council released an edict banning “tomboys” in the Muslim-majority country. The mufti of Malaysian state of Perak, Harussani Idris Zakaria, maintained that the Council was concerned that an increasing number of Muslim girls are behaving like tomboys and some of them engage in homosexuality. […] Read more »