THE WAY I SEE IT – Review by Martha K Baker

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Long before Pete Souza became the Official White House photographer for President Barak Obama, he served in the same capacity for President Ronald Reagan. The two jobs and the two Presidents were very different. Souza responded in kind. For Pres. Obama, Souza had top-secret clearance plus total access to the President.

For eight years, Souza, “a historian with a camera,” captured as many human moments as political events. “The Way I See It” records well what Souza saw. “I knew what went on in the room.”

Souza often backed into a space crowded with people waiting to meet with the President. At sight of him and his cameras, they knew Obama would follow and all buzzing ceased, according to Samantha Power, Obama’s Ambassador to the U.N. Others interviewed include Souza’s mother and wife, Obama’s national security advisor Ben Rhodes, and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Under the direction of Dawn Porter (“Gideon’s Army”), Souza narrates the story of his journey. He had to think about mood, emotion, and context; he had to be ready for the fleeting moment, big or small. “Being the official White House photographer is like taking a sip of water from a fire hose that never shuts off.”

“The Way I See It” is gloriously replete with Souza’s snaps: happy people or a deeply concerned President with his cabinet; the President with children, included his own beloveds, or with the parents of dead ones in Sandy Hook or with pastors of dead Christians in Charleston; in Missouri at Arthur Bryant’s bar-be-que in Kansas City or after a tornado through Joplin; the President presiding at his photographer’s wedding. “He loves a love story,” says Souza.

After Trump’s inauguration in 2017, Souza expresses concern about the loss of history when pictures are “posed, not caught.” Souza, never very political before, has become a Trump troll on Instagram, placing his official Obama photos in apposition to Trump events and adding a cutting cut-line.

“The Way I See It” wonderfully documents Obama’s presidency as caught on film. Pete Souza’s all-seeing eye records a range of emotion, undergirded with humanity, humor, and humility.

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Martha K. Baker (Archived Contributor)

I first taught film at Lakeland College in Wisconsin in 1969 and became a professional film reviewer in 1976 in St. Louis, Mo. Through the years, I have reviewed films for the St. Louis Business Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Episcopal Life, and KWMU (NPR), among other outlets. I've reviewed at KDHX radio, my current outlet, for nearly 20 years.