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)

read more

Read more »

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.

read more

Read more »

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)

read more

Read more »

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

read more

Read more »