Former official White House photographer Pete Souza shot shut to 2 million pictures of then-President Barack Obama throughout his eight years in workplace — and so they weren’t all cute candids with children.
In his new guide, Obama: An Intimate Portrait, Souza reveals that one in every of his hardest days on the job was additionally what he described as “the worst day” of Obama’s presidency: December 14, 2012, when 20 first-grade college students and 6 employees members died within the taking pictures bloodbath at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“[The shooting] affected me in a profound way that no other situation in the eight years did. I can feel my eyes tearing up now just talking to you about it,” Souza says in an unique interview with PEOPLE. “It certainly affected [President Obama] … He cried on stage one time reliving that, because I think he was reacting not just as a president, but as a parent.”
RELATED GALLERY: Barack Obama Unplugged: Former W.H. Photographer Pete Souza Shows Off Never-Before-Seen Shots
In his guide, Souza presents 4 pictures capturing the Obama household’s private response to the tragedy. One picture reveals Obama first studying of the deaths from Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan. (Souza defined that each one images that had been by no means earlier than launched had been printed with the Obamas’ permission.)
“The president slumped in reaction against the Oval sofa, visibly deflated,” Souza writes in his guide. “I’m sure he was thinking foremost of the parents, imagining the horror of learning that their six-year-old son or daughter had been shot to death by a madman and would never come home.”
Opposite that snapshot, Souza presents a never-before-seen of President Obama hugging daughter Malia within the personal residence later that very same day as an anguished Michelle Obama appears on. “The president hugged her for a long time,” Souza writes. In the third , Obama hugs the mom of Ben Wheeler, a first-grader who was killed within the taking pictures.
“I don’t think I’m the best photographer in the world. I’m a competent photographer,” Souza mentioned when requested how he captured such emotionally charged moments. “But I think I was absolutely the right person to be [President Obama’s] photographer… I think he trusted me completely… I was respectful of their privacy. I would make a few pictures in intimate situations and back away when I needed to.”
WATCH: In Two Words and One Photo, Former Obama White House Photographer Schools Sarah Palin, Kid Rock and Ted Nugent on Respect
Barack Obama agrees.
“In addition to his exceptional eye, Pete has a remarkable talent for making himself invisible. In fact, what makes Pete such an extraordinary photographer, I think, is something more than his ability to frame an interesting moment. It’s his capacity to capture the mood, the atmosphere, and the meaning of that moment,” Obama writes within the guide’s foreword.
He additionally describes Souza as “a friend, a confidant, and a brother,” including that the photographer and his spouse, Patti, are a lot part of the Obama household that their wedding ceremony was held within the White House Rose Garden.
Two days after the taking pictures, Souza joined the president for the memorial service in Newtown. But not earlier than catching Obama’s daughter Sasha’s gown rehearsal for her dance recital.
“The president had to miss Sasha’s dance recital to attend, so he watched the dress rehearsal before boarding the plane to Connecticut. The auditorium was mostly empty, and at one point, I wandered down to the front seats to take some pictures of Sasha dancing,” Souza writes. “Soon after, about 25 young performers filed out from backstage and sat down next to me. A lump filled my throat. ‘How old are you?’ I asked one girl. ‘Six,’ she replied nervously. I looked at that row of kids seated in the auditorium and began to cry.”
Souza says that Obama ready his remarks earlier than the memorial service in a clbadroom in Newtown High School.
“Two teachers had written on the whiteboard: ‘Dear President Obama, the Newtown community is so thankful that you are coming to help us heal. In times of adversity it is rebaduring to know that we have a strong leader to help us recover,’ ” Souza remembers in his guide. “The president wrote his response on the board: ‘You’re in our thoughts and prayers.’ ”
Beyond his work photographing a few of the Obamas’ most iconic and intimate moments, Souza has gained consideration for his Instagram presence. He usually posts images from the Obama presidency with captions subtly highlighting the jarring distinction between the Obama and Trump administrations.
“It’s funny that people think I had some grand strategy. I didn’t,” Souza mentioned when requested about his intention behind his posts, which have been celebrated in headlines high-fiving his “shade-throwing” and “Trump trolling.”
“I didn’t even realize what I was doing, to be honest with you,” Souza mentioned. “I had to look up what the term ‘throwing shade’ meant.”
He added: “[Now] I think it’s better not even to talk about it, to just let it speak for itself. Respectful and subtle … People judge it for what it is, which is fine by me.”
Obama: An Intimate Portrait is on sale now.