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Wednesday, November 24 at 8 p.m. The President's Photographer: 50 Years in the Oval Office

(Rochester, NY) For 50 years, presidential photographers have covered it all: upheaval, tragedy, joy — often developing friendships with the presidents they serve. Acting as both visual historians and key links between the public and the presidents, for these photographers no day is the same — whether they are aboard Air Force One, backstage at the State of the Union or in the heart of the West Wing. As the 44th president’s chief photographer, Pete Souza is never far behind President Obama. Now, in the new National Geographic Special, The President’s Photographer: 50 Years in the Oval Office, airing on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11) on Wednesday, November 24 at 8 p.m., viewers get to follow Souza, and those who came before him, for a behind-the-scenes look at the everyday grit of the American presidency. It’s a chance to see what it’s like to cover the most powerful man in the world, for history.

“I think creating a good photographic archive for history is the most important part of my job…creating this archive that will live on,” says Souza. The pictures serve as a visual tool that will help future historians understand what went on during the presidency; so far, eight professionals have served as official White House photographers. The idea of shooting for history took hold almost 50 years ago when President Johnson hired the first official presidential photographer, Yoichi Okamoto, known as Okie. He set the gold standard for presidential photography, and he did it on the strength of his unique access.
To a documentary photographer, every presidency has defining stories, and those images are often how we remember a president. For Johnson, it was civil rights and Vietnam. President Reagan is forever tied to the end of the Cold War. President Clinton pursued peace in the Middle East. History has yet to define the Obama administration, but Souza is there to document it, every step of the way.

Pictured: Pete Souza photographs President Obama and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in the Oval Office.
Credit: Courtesy of Erin Harvey ©NGT

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