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From the White House to Madison, former photographer reflects on career

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MADISON (WKOW) -- After years of following two sitting presidents, a former chief White House photographer is adjusting to life in Madison. 

Pete Souza worked for President Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama taking photos of some of the most historic, tense and somber situations. 

He moved to Madison last fall with his wife while his daughter works through her final year of a medical residency at UW Hospital. 

When reflecting on his work, he said every day was different witnessing some of the most iconic moments but also the difficult times during a presidency. He said his job was to be a fly on the wall.

“My approach was to keep my emotions in check as much as possible to be able to document what was unfolding right in front of me,” said Souza. 

Souza said he doesn’t have a favorite photo, because there’s so many, but he enjoys showing the human side of presidents through his photographs.

Pete Souza

"My favorite moments are the small moments not necessarily from big events, unexpected moments, fleeting moments that reveal more about him as a human being and then as a president."

Souza first started his career taking photographs of President Ronald Regan in 1983 but he wasn't the Chief White House photographer until two decades later shadowing President Barack Obama during his 8 years in office. 

Pete Souza

"It was like two different lifetimes, there's a 25-year gap and the circumstances were just so much different.”

He said he’ll always cherish the time he spent with both presidents doing what he loves, catching a snapshot of time otherwise unknown to the rest of us. 

Pete Souza

"When you put all the work together, I hope people have a good a good sense of what he was like as a human being -- as a person in that job."

Getting Political on Social Media:

For Souza, much of his political views are now posted through social media often criticizing President Donald Trump.

“I'm sort of dismayed by the current president in office and the way he's disrespected the dignity of the presidency,” said Souza.


In his book Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents  he tells the tale of Obama and Trump through visuals.

“He's not afraid to break the law and that's not normal so I’m calling him out on it because that it's dangerous,” he said.

As for what's next for Souza he tells 27 News he's working on a documentary film about his work and his social media presence weighing in on the state of politics.

He’s hoping to have a watch party in Madison once the film is finished sometime this September. 

You can watch the full interview with Souza on Capital City Sunday at 9 a.m.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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