As the chief official White House photographer for President Barack Obama, Pete Souza spent eight years capturing snapshots of some of the most intimate and important moments in Obama’s tenure. Now he’s sharing those photos to create the Instagram version of a subtweet of President Donald Trump.
It all began on January 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration. When photos circulated showing that Trump had redecorated the Oval Office with golden drapes, Souza took to Instagram to let everyone know he preferred Obama’s aesthetic choices.
Then on January 30, amid the controversy resulting from Trump’s immigration and refugee order, Souza posted a photo of President Obama meeting with Alex, a young boy who had written Obama a letter urging him to help a Syrian boy depicted in a viral photo from Aleppo. “In my school, I have a friend from Syria, Omar, and I will introduce him to Omar. We can all play together,” Alex wrote.
Remember Alex, the six-year-old boy who wrote President Obama a letter about the Syrian boy photographed in the ambulance. Alex visited the Oval Office with his family the day after the election. "Dear President Obama, Remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria? Can you please go get him and bring him to [my home]? Park in the driveway or on the street and we will be waiting for you guys with flags, flowers, and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother. Catherine, my little sister, will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him. In my school, I have a friend from Syria, Omar, and I will introduce him to Omar. We can all play together. We can invite him to birthday parties and he will teach us another language. We can teach him English too, just like my friend Aoto from Japan. Please tell him that his brother will be Alex who is a very kind boy, just like him. Since he won't bring toys and doesn't have toys Catherine will share her big blue stripy white bunny. And I will share my bike and I will teach him how to ride it. I will teach him additions and subtractions in math. And he [can] smell Catherine's lip gloss penguin which is green. She doesn't let anyone touch it. Thank you very much! I can't wait for you to come! Alex 6 years old "
The next day, after Trump announced his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Souza highlighted Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, who was never confirmed due to Republican opposition.
When reports surfaced in early February that Trump had feuded with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the phone, Souza reminded everyone of the nature of Obama’s relationship with him.
As Trump’s Cabinet and senior advisers began to settle into the White House, Souza posted a photo of some of Obama’s key advisers — who all share a key feature in the image. Though Souza had withheld explicit criticism thus far, on February 6 he was more direct in this caption: “This is a full-frame picture. I guess you'd say I was trying to make a point.”
Then on February 11, when White House press pool reporters were stuck in a room with blacked-out windows as Trump golfed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Souza shared an image that captured Obama’s more favorable relationship with the press.
Early the following week, it was reported that Trump had handled documents relating to a North Korean missile test in plain sight over dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Souza took to Instagram again to show how Obama addressed national security matters while traveling.
When we were on the road, national security discussions and head of state phone calls were conducted in a private, secure location set up onsite. Everyone had to leave their Blackberry outside the area. In this photo, which was taken in March 2011 and subsequently released, the President holds a discussion in El Salvador following a conference call with his full national security team.
Souza’s most direct indirect address to Trump came following a chaotic press conference on February 16 in which Trump continually railed against what he called “fake news.” Noting that he was once a press photographer, Souza pushed back: “Freedom of the press is one of the bedrock principles of our country.”
Freedom of the press is one of the bedrock principles of our country. In addition to being a White House photographer for President Obama and President Reagan, I've spent a significant chunk of my career as a member of the press. So I think I have a good perspective on this. Sometimes people don't like what the press is doing. But that doesn't mean the press should stop taking pictures or stop writing stories. (Since some will ask: many years ago, this guy was upset because I was taking pictures of county officials trying to contain a suspicious fire at his factory. He made the mistake of punching me out while a police officer was standing next to me.)
And Souza didn’t stop there. Most recently, after Trump referenced a nonexistent refugee terrorist attack in Sweden, Souza posted a photo of Obama’s 2013 trip to the country.