Last May, the official White House photographer, Pete Souza, shared some of his favorite pictures of the Obama family and staff, taken over the last eight years. Some of the images that touched me the most, were the pictures of the president interacting with children. He didn’t just hold and kiss babies for the photo op. He engaged them. He ignored the cameras and got down on their level. He spoke with kids like they were people – because they are people.
There are two pictures that stood out to me the most. Pete Souza didn’t just capture a moment in history. He documented legacy.
Below is a picture of little Clark Reynolds meeting the Barack Obama. This is the first president Clark has ever known, a man that looks like him. He probably doesn’t understand that the man touching his cheek is the first American president of African descent. But for the relative standing behind him, this moment is so much more. She brought Clark to see a possibility that used to be something she didn’t think would happen in her lifetime. They are standing in this moment together. Barack Obama gently touching Clark’s cheek seems to say, “You’re next,” and there’s no reason for him to doubt that one day he can be the president when he grows up.
The second picture (below) is one of Souza’s more popular captures. This picture of Jacob Philadelphia was taken in 2009, shortly after Barack Obama took office. Jacob was five years old at the time, and seemed to know there was something peculiar about this particular man being the president. His classmates told him he looked just like the president. He had to investigate this notion. So, when his family visited The Oval Office to take a picture with the president, Jacob took the opportunity to ask the president if their hair felt the same. The president bent down to Jacob’s level and allowed him to touch his hair. This picture could easily be titled, “Are You Real?” At that time, most Americans were still surprised that we really had an African-American president. This image expresses the shock and wonder many of us felt in the days following the 2008 election.
Author Jamila E. Gomez says about this image, “When possibility stands so close, you can literally touch it. And it looks and feels just like you.”
I couldn’t have said it better.