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 Foreign Service: Missing Once Again

Why shouldn’t the American public be just as cognizant of the lives and stories of the sacrifices American diplomats made and continue to make for this country as they are of uniformed service members or, for that matter, the journalists who cover the conflicts? Read more »

My Day One: September 6, 2012

September 6, 2012 was my first day as a citizen of the United States of America. I raised my hand, took the oath of allegiance, and the United States officially became my country that day. At the naturalization ceremony, I received the following lette... Read more »

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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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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“A True American Patriot” — President Obama Pays Tribute to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

President Obama, Vice President Biden and Gen. Martin Dempsey participate in an Armed Forces farewell in honor of Secretary Hagel

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff participate in an Armed Forces farewell in honor of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Fort Myer, Va., Jan. 28, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President traveled to Fort Myer, Virginia yesterday for the Armed Forces farewell ceremony in honor of our 24th Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel.

In his remarks, the President acknowledged Secretary Hagel's courageous work during his lifelong service as a decorated veteran and Secretary:

[T]oday is a celebration of a quintessentially American life -- a man from the heartland who devoted his life to America. Just imagine, in your mind’s eye, the defining moments of his life. The kid from Nebraska who, as Marty said, volunteered to go to Vietnam. The soldier outside Saigon, rushing to pull his own brother from a burning APC. The deputy at the VA who stood up for his fellow Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange. The senator who helped lead the fight for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, to give this generation of heroes the same opportunities that he had.

I asked Chuck to lead this department at a moment of profound transition. And today we express our gratitude for the progress under his watch.

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Elections 2014: A Really Nice Experience in an Otherwise Dismal Day

I spent November 4 working as an election official at a precinct in a nearby Pueblo. the turnout was high, far higher than for the state and the nation as a whole, over 50% versus a statewide 37% and an even more dismal national average of 34%. What’s more, the precinct was heavily Democratic, and Democrats didn’t do themselves proud on turnout this year. So what made the difference? Why was the pueblo vote so high, and just how did these Native Americans vote? Did these registered Democrats desert the party? More important: what lessons can be learned that might be useful for the future? Anything here that could be implemented elsewhere? Read more »

After thoughts on Memorial Day 2014

Why shouldn't America's diplomats also be honored by the US government in its official Memorial Day ceremonies - along with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. Maybe if they were and the public had a chance to learn their stories Americans would come one small step forward towards understanding that its diplomats are every bit as important as its military in the making and implementing of US foreign policy by keeping and restoring the peace. Read more »

How to Humanize Inequality

Not really. Cities that have instituted inflation-adjusted living wage laws do not report soaring prices or de-employment. Santa Fe, New Mexico, among others, took the plunge some years ago. A belief in economic justice defeated the inevitable fear tactics, and we citizens voted to pass the referendum. As a result, in Santa Fe, the minimum wage already exceeds that which President Obama futilely proposed last year for the nation. Guess what? The sky didn’t fall in. Read more »

Messages from Moscow: Don’t Trust. Definitely Verify

A propaganda/disinformation blitz is only as effective as the lack of knowledge and gullibility of the intended recipients. The most effective antidotes are clear, rapid and credible refutation of whatever the content might be and a simple telling of the truth. Over and over and over again. Read more »