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New Photographs Of President Obama On Display In New York

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OBAMA SOUZA
President Obama greets soldiers in Afghanistan in December, 2010. | The White House

NEW YORK -- Everywhere President Barack Obama goes, the cameras are always watching -- whether it's a professional's camcorder or an amateur's cellphone. But more often than not these days, it's the Canon 5D that belongs to Pete Souza.

Souza, the administration's head White House photographer, now has more than 50 images on display at the Leica Gallery near New York University. At the Thursday opening of the exhibit, "The Obama Presidency: A Look Behind the Scenes," Souza noted that some of the photographs are being shown for the first time.

"What I had in the back of my mind was to present to the public a good representation of the life of the president," Souza told The Huffington Post. "The serious moments, the historic moments, the funny moments and the family moments."

While the White House posts much of Souza's regular work online, shots that feature the president's daughters, Sasha and Malia, are not always made available.

"So there are some here you won't find on Flickr," he said. "But, either way, the presentation is much different than what you would have on the Internet."

One of the previously unreleased images shows President Obama playing in the snow with his daughters in the Rose Garden. In another, which Souza calls "Coach Obama," the president is shown leading Sasha's basketball team when her regular coach couldn't make a game. (Obama and his personal aide, Reggie Love, appear in the photo to be taking the game very seriously.)

Souza was also an official photographer in the Reagan administration. A bit camera-shy himself, the 56-year-old has some particular interests -- many of his photographs focus on the hands of his subjects -- but above all, he says, his job is to create a visual archive of the Obama presidency.

All of the photographs in the exhibit are arranged chronologically, showing, as the gallery's director, Jay Deutsch, put it, "the extraordinary diversity of the president's experiences." A photograph of Obama greeting tourists at the Lincoln memorial is shown next to the iconic image of the president and his national security team watching the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Souza emphasized that the bin Laden photo was just one of many taken during the 40-minute operation.

"A couple of points," Souza wrote in the caption to that iconic photo, "one, the Situation Room contains a series of conference rooms. Traditionally, the President holds his meetings in the largest conference room. But, while they were monitoring the mission, they moved into this smaller conference room where the communications to Pakistan had been linked up. Two, the tension on the faces of everyone was evident in all the pictures taken in this room. Secretary Clinton had her hand to her face in several of the frames; so did others. The picture we chose represented what I felt was the best one in how everyone was reacting to the situation at hand."

Other photographs also drew the attention of visitors at the show. Paul Winkfield, a former photojournalist who said he was "beyond jealous" of the access Souza has to the president, was drawn in particular to an image of Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev eating lunch at Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Va.

"Can you imagine," he asked, "LBJ with Khrushchev, having a burger?"

The exhibit at Leica Gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 6 p.m., until August 6. Souza was also recently featured in a PBS film.

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