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Pete Souza on Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents

Souza coming to Parker to discuss rerelease of Shade on Nov. 6

Souza’s Shade offers commentary on Trump Presidency.
Photo: courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

It was no surprise that Pete Souza, President Obama’s chief photographer, created a photo book that chronicles his time within the White House.  What was surprising was his second smaller book, titled, Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents.

The images within this book are similar to those that appear in Obama: An Intimate Portrait, as both books contain images that were taken during his time working for the Obama White House. Yet, they are more relevant than ever as they are presented as reactions to events caused by the current administration in Washington, D.C.

The unique aspect about Shade is that the project started on Instagram with Souza “throwing shade” about lavish changes to the Oval Office after the Obama presidency. 

Souza recently sat down with The Sentry and spoke about everything from the number of cameras he used over eight years to how vital Instagram was in the creation of this book.

“I think that I would have tried to find a way to speak out.  But I don’t know that it would have been nearly as effective if not for Instagram.  It just served as the perfect outlet for doing this,” Souza said.

Souza’s ability to find a photograph that echoes similarities to current events within an hour of news breaking is a skill many photographers only dream of, and Instagram gives him the platform to share them instantly with his followers. 

Souza utilizes the public Flickr archive that was meticulously catalogued as the photographs were captured.

“The other day when there was this whole controversy about the whistleblower.  I was thinking about that and I just thought of ‘whistle,’ of Obama whistling, and I could maybe do a post the next day on finding a picture of him whistling and saying he was the ‘whistleblower.’  You know—just a kind of humorous post,” Souza added.

Shade is full of posts like this, and the physical presentation in the book is ingenious.    It was originally released in October of 2018 and will be rereleased in paperback form on Oct. 22, 2019 with 60 new pages. 

However, not every post can be humorous and, in a bid to show the power of photographs, Souza recently posted two photographs of President Obama speaking on the phone to foreign leaders.

“I was trying to make the point that these are not the most exciting pictures in the world, but they are important historically. You could see who else is in the room, and you could feel the mood and emotion and what was taking place,” Souza explained. 

“There was context.  You could see in the photograph the grandfather clock in the background, so you could see the time the picture was taken. You see what he’s wearing.  There’s a sense of tension in the phone call.  These are all important things and I think they help historically show what these moments are like,” Souza said.

Souza will be in Parker at the PACE Events Center on Nov. 6, 2019 to speak about a he captured during the Obama Presidency and his rerelease of Shade. His images are also featured on Instagram @petesouza.

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