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A Look at President Obama’s Photo Legacy

Published 6 years ago

U.S. President Barack Obama’s time in office has coincided with an explosion in social media. While it’s not unusual for the Commander in Chief to be a popular photo subject, Obama’s photos have had farther reach because of the ease of sharing them (both official shares by the White House and unofficial ones by everyone else).

With social media’s rapid rise, Obama had two choices, really: Fight the onslaught of visibility, or roll with it. He and his family chose the latter – resulting in a humanized first family like Americans had never before experienced. What will that mean in terms of photo legacy? How will the way visuals changed during Obama’s presidency impact future leaders?

Official Photos with Unconventional Delivery

White House photographer Pete Souza has taken 2 million pictures of the first family over the past 8 years and nearly 7,000 of those are part of the White House’s Flickr account. Though these photos are professional, Souza has a knack for catching the casual, human side of his subjects. From a photo of President Obama allowing a little boy to touch his hair as they stand in the Oval Office to another of the President standing solemnly in the rain as he gets ready to speak his first words at a press conference, Souza has captured the small moments that have made up a historic two terms.

A White House photographer is nothing new, of course, but the sharability of those photos is different than previous terms. Instead of being relegated to a coffee table book a decade after the Obamas have left the White House, the world has been able to see them in nearly real-time and follow the images and videos through social media accounts.

If you didn’t already know, President Obama is on Facebook and Twitter, and he made a surprise appearance on Reddit in 2012. First Lady Michelle Obama is on all the same channels and recently joined Snapchat. From photos to videos to “snaps” and “tweets,” the Presidential family has made it a point to be where everyone else is and engage in a less-formal way. Social media truly is a great equalizer in many ways. As you scroll through your Twitter feed you can choose to read about small business marketing or behind-the-scenes sports content or even, as we’ve seen the past 8 years, what the President of the United States had for lunch.

So what will Presidential photos look like for the next term? Will the world still get an up-close look at the highest office of the land, or will these eight years with the Obamas remain the most engaging, photographed of all time? The personality of the next President, and the evolution of technology, will determine the answer to that. In the meantime, we have millions of photos of this moment in White House time to view.

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© Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

© Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

© Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

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