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The new documentary The Way I See It looks at former presidents Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan through the eyes of Pete Souza. During his time as an official White House photographer, Souza captured the profound, intimate, funny and dignified moments of two of the most iconic presidents in modern history. The Way I See It is directed by Dawn Porter, who also made the wonderful and inspiring documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble.
Both Porter and Souza were my guests on. During our conversation, Porter explained why she was compelled by Souza and his perspective working for Regan and Obama. When Souza started photographing Obama, the future president was still a senator.
“He [Souza] was thinking, ‘Who is this man?'” said Porter. “And that’s what I was thinking about with Pete. How did he come to be? What has influenced Pete?”
Since hanging up his White House camera, Souza, as his Instagram profile states, has become a citizen of Earth. Over the last three years, the former photojournalist gained attention for having his own opinions about the current occupant of the White House. He registered his distaste as only a photographer can, by posting photos as a juxtaposition. The idea wasn’t to be political but to remind the world of the dignity and empathy needed to be the president.
“I had a unique voice having worked for not only a Republican and a Democratic president, but what’s arguably the most iconic Republican president and the most iconic Democratic president of certainly my generation. I could come at this with a nonpartisan view that this wasn’t because Donald Trump’s a Republican. It had nothing to do with it. He was not fit for office,” said Souza. “For three years, we saw what it means to have someone who’s ill-prepared and is not empathetic. What it means when you’re faced with a global pandemic and trying to bluff your way through it. Tying to do everything that makes you look good, and not what’s best for the country. So it wasn’t really that difficult decision for me to make to start speaking out.”
Over a lively 30 minutes, Porter and Souza discuss why empathy is important for a leader to have, the passing of John Lewis, the significance of professional athletes protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake and what it’s like having Obama officiate your wedding.
Listen to my entire conversation with Porter and Souza on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. The Way I See It opens Friday in select theaters. Also, you can subscribe to I’m So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.