Pete Souza’s Images of the Obama Years!

The Time of Her Life! A 106 Year Old Senior Dances With the First Lady

Photography as a Cultural Document and Political Weapon

From the moment the great Afro-American Abolitionist activist orator/writer Frederick Douglass saw the new art of photography, introduced to America by the black New Orleans photographer Jules Lion, who had worked with it’s inventor in Paris, Douglass recognized it’s potential as a powerful weapon to fight the racist images of black Americans propagated by white Americans in drawings, dolls and the developing black face minstrel show. We were provided a powerful example of Douglass’ vision in action in the marvelous television  special featuring selected images from the almost two million photographs of the Obamas, shot by the official White House photographer.

If you missed “The Way I See It,”  an hour- long documentary on MSNBC featuring the photographs and commentary of Pete Souza, the White House photographer for the entire eight years of the Obama Administration, you slept on a great cultural event.  Many of the photographs that we all loved – like the fist bump with the Hispanic cleaner in the White House, and the little 5 year old black boy who wanted to rub President Obama’s head, to see if Obama’s hair was the same as his – and all those magical love scenes between Barack and Michelle…REAL LOVE, not that staged fake BS between Don that Con and Melania Mannequin – were shot by Pete Souza.

Real Love!

The Kinda Love that You feel…..

****When you feel what you never felt before!

As a lover of photography, and having shot a few thousand pictures, I was especially moved by Mr. Souza’s work because his approach to photography is the same as mine. I am not a big fan of posed pictures – although it is an art and some great artists have produced stunning works. But when I had my exhibition “The Elegance of Afro-Americans,”* I sought to capture our folks just going bout their business lookin good the way we do it!

Pete Souza’s work is guided by this approach to his job as White House photographer. And what he produced is a treasure trove of marvelous images. Which standing alone testifies to President Obama’s generosity of spirit, his sense of humor, his love and concern for the American people. Mr. Souza also produced poignant images that captured President Obama’s devotion to his children…and his profound love for ALL children.

Hangin with da Boyz

Happy and Nappy

Black Like Me?
Barack Loves the Babies!

Truth be Told….He’s a Baby Whisperer….Cause they Can Sense it

He also shows how the Obama girls Melia and Sasha, received the best of parenting; how they were molded and polished like black diamonds by  two fabulous black women: His wife and her wise mother under whose guidance cultivated Michelle into the  formidable woman she is.

 Obama and His Ladies: Michelle, Sasha and Melia

America’s Black, Brown and Beige First Family

Watching their family life as it unfolded, not staged scenes for the publicity mill like the photographs we see from the Trump White House, we recognize how much the nation has lost, our moral decline, now that the Obama’s have been replaced by a mobbed up real estate flim flam man from the Big Apple and his Euro-trash wife.

A college dropout, and soft porn model who lied about having a college degree in “architectural design,” Melania is so stupid she actually read Michelle Obama’s speech verbatim claiming it was her own.  Alas,  while Michelle was a successful Harvard trained corporate lawyer, who once mentored Barack in the law, the Mannequin’s greatest accomplishment is hooking the trick of a lifetime and accidently becoming America’s First Lady….with critical Russian help.  The disastrous fall from highly accomplished, Ivy League educated, meritocrats, to white trash with money in the White House, is poignantly portrayed in the photographic record of Pete Sousa.  The photos speak for themselves.

The Portrait of Barack Obama in his official role as Chief Executive of the USA, is compelling.  We are provided a bird’s eye view of the inner workings of the Obama Administration at critical moments in the history of the United States.  Here Mr. Souza’s voice over commentary adds powerful perspective to the visual images he created.  We are there in the situation room when the Islamic Jihadist leader Osama Bin Laden – master mind of the 9/11 terrorist attack – was taken out.  We watch President Obama save the American auto industry from collapse, in his efforts to salvage the economy from the mess the Republicans made under George Bush, and we witness the trial and tribulations of the ordeal mirrored in his face and body language.  But we also witness the joy and jubilation President Obama and his Democratic colleagues experience when thy achieved major victories like the passage of the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare.”

Commanding the Daring Take Down of Osama Bin Ladin

Jubilation!

Applauding the Brilliance of Speaker Pelosi in Passing Obamacare

Then there are the lighter moments that tell us so much about the character of President Obama and his First lady.  Like the time during the Second Inauguration ceremony when Souza asked Barack if he could join he and Michelle in the presidential limousine, and he said no, because they were planning on “making out” in the back seat during the procession down the boulevard!   And the time he was playing a one on one mano a mano game of basketball with his assistant Reggie Love.

Posterizing Reggie!!!

Barack Replaced the Bowling Alley with A B-Ball Court
The President Confronts the King on His Court

Souza pointed out that although Barack failed to make the starting five on his High-school basket-ball squad in Hawaii, and was six inches shorter that the former star of the formidable Duke University varsity basketball team, Barack, whom we see had mad hops from other shots of  him in action on the court, blocked Reggie’s shot!   And Souza says President Obama asked if he had captured the block and insisted that he blow the photograph up to poster size and hang it on the White house Wall.  He says Barack was the most competitive player he had seen.

Interestingly enough, it was Barack’s basketball game that won over her father and brother.  Her father had always counselled her brother that if you want to take the measure of a man’s character get him on the basketball court. A view that no doubt flowed from the glorious Basketball tradition of Black Chicago.  And as a Princeton basketball star, and Division I basketball coach, he had quite an insight into what a player’s game said about their character.  Amazingly, what he saw in Barack on the Basketball court, and reported to Michelle,  turned out to be a reliable indicator of the way he behaved as husband and father. And how he acted as President.

The fact that Pete Souza became fonder of Barack the more he saw of him – and having total unfettered access he saw a lot – tells us volumes about the kind of man President Obama was.  For there is more than a little truth in the old adage: “No man is a hero to his butler!”  Well, Souza had  more access to the President than any British Butler ever had to the princes and powers that ruled Great Britain.  And yet his admiration grew into genuine affection.   Indeed,  Souza has published two books of his photographs, one of which is titled “Shade,” where he adds captions to his photographs candidly showing the contrast between President Obama and Dirty Donnie Dimwit – as man and politician.

Souza shows that Barack is one of the very few men who can walk as an equal with kings; yet retain the common touch.  This is demonstrated over and again in word and images from almost two million photographs, the way Souza sees it in this graphic gift to the world, this generous spiritual benefaction, that will never stop giving. Future historians will find this a pearl of inestimable value, which delights Pete Souza, who rightly considers his work “a first draft of history.”

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Playthell G. Benjamin
 Harlem, New York
 October 17, 2020

 How Souza Saw it Through His Camera Lens

My Favorite Things…

Obviously, with two million photographs to choose from, all of them with a special beauty, one is overwhelmed by the embarrassment of riches.  Hence selecting among them must be viewed as nothing more than the reflection of one’s biases, a reflection of personal.  And has been often noted: “There is no accounting for personal taste.”  It is, alas, what it is.   So, here are a few of my favorite things.  If you click on the link below you can hear the great John Coltrane – whose music Barack, like myself, adores – playing “My Favorite Things” as you view the pictures.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWG2dsXV5HI

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A Black and Tan Fantasy!

The Sound Portrait Maestro Ellington Had in Mind 
Daddy’s Girl

She Will Always Hold Men to High Standards
Ole!  Dancing the Tango with Panache

Doopus Donnie Dimwit can’t Groove Like This!
Smooching With his Boo

I Only Have Eyes For You

A Sunday Kinda Love

The Kind that Lasts Past Saturday Night
You Can Always Tell the Good Guys

Cause They Love to Play with Babies*****
******And Pets

They Are Embraced By the Righteous

Paying Homage to John Lewis: An An Elder on Whose Shoulders he Stands
And Chill With Holy Men

The Pope’s Pronouncements are Revered as Dogma by Millions
Good Guys See People as Just People

A Real Man of Faith: All Are Equal in the Eyes of God
Good Guys are Always Trying to Improve….

The Man in the Mirror….

And Maintain their Cool
Even If They Are the most Powerful Man in the World!

Pete Souza Saw it All

Bearing witness With His Cameras

His Poignant Images A Benefaction to Our Posterity

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