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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West Wing Week: 07/17/15 or, “Barack-amole”

This week, the President secured a historic nuclear deal with Iran, traveled to Oklahoma to highlight the administration's work on criminal justice reform and the ConnectHome Initiative, designated three national monuments, spoke at the White House Conference on Aging and dropped by the Kids' "State Dinner."

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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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My Day One: From the Streets of Lahore to the Heart of Texas

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.

As a kid growing up in Texarkana, Texas, I often tried to pretend I was not an immigrant. I did not even know I was doing it really. Like many other kids, I just wanted to fit in and be a part of a girl scout troop, or a cheerleader, or sleep over at a friend’s house. All these pieces of American culture were foreign to my parents. Aside from differing practices and norms, my family didn’t necessarily talk about being immigrants. We were obviously Pakistani—that was one of the many things about us that stood out in our small town. But, that we were “immigrants” or how we came to be in the United States—those were things that went unspoken, even inside our home. I did not actually know the full story of how my family came to America until much later in life.

Growing up, my father used to sell toys on the street in his neighborhood in Lahore. He was the eldest of eight, struggling to make ends meet, and selling toys after school was one of the ways he helped out. He would go to school every morning, and afterwards, he would sell four or five toys on the side of the road—as many as he could carry in his arms. If he sold one, he came home with one rupee. Today that’s about a penny, but it was worth a little more back then. And my grandmother, so happy for the extra rupee and grateful for her son’s work, kissed that bill when he handed it to her.

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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 »

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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House Republicans Vote to Allow the Amnesty of Our Broken Immigration System to Continue

This week, House Republicans put at risk critical funding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needs to keep our nation safe by insisting on a series of amendments to overturn the President’s immigration accountability executive actions... Read more »

Judicial Nominations: Accomplishments and the Work That Lies Ahead

Before the Senate adjourned last night, it confirmed 12 federal district court nominees, for a total of 307 lifetime-appointed federal judges confirmed during President Obama’s first six years. These confirmations include two Supreme Court Justic... Read more »

Kicking Off Military Family Month

Throughout our history, members of our military have put their lives on the line to defend our country and preserve our security. While this requires a tremendous personal sacrifice, it is also important to recognize the unyielding love and support tha... Read more »

Meet the U.S. Military Team That’s Poised to Help Respond to Ebola in the U.S.

The Department of Defense (DOD), at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced this weekend that U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) is providing a 30-person medical support team to quickly, effectively, and safely respond in the event of additional Ebola cases in the United States.

USNORTHCOM is the military's geographic command responsible for homeland defense, civil support, and security cooperation. It is prepared to support this request and be part of a multi-disciplinary team that, if directed, will give our nation another layer of support providing the highest quality and safest care in responding to any future Ebola cases in the homeland. 

This team is a deliberate infusion of some of the best medical personnel across all of our nation's military services. They will stand ready to help civilian medical professionals develop additional capabilities. Following infectious disease protocols and properly using personal protective equipment is essential to success. This DOD team will be prepared to help civilian agencies quickly develop the expertise that will keep their staff safe and prevent the spread of disease.

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