Hatteberg's People - Pete Souza

By: Larry Hatteberg Email
By: Larry Hatteberg Email

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On Hatteberg’s People, with the inauguration of Barack Obama on Tuesday a former Kansas photojournalist will have a front row seat to power. Pete Souza, who once worked for the Hutchinson News Newspaper is Barack Obama’s personal photographer, but it isn’t his first time at such an historic gig. He was also Ronald Reagan’s personal photographer. Pete was in Hutchinson several years ago on a book tour with his behind the scenes book of the Reagan administration. Now when you see what he did with Reagan, you’ll understand why this talented photographer is on his second ‘shot’ with history.

“I’m more of a photographer that tries to capture real people in real life situation.”

Former Kansan Pete Souza had what most still photographers would consider a ‘dream’ job. For four years he had almost complete access to Ronald Reagan.

Souza was a White House Photographer who saw with his camera, those moments that were hidden from the rest of us.

“Most people don’t know that he would actually go riding outside the gates of Camp David.”

The pictures are part of a book that Sousa has published about his years in the White House. While he may have been in Washington, his roots were in Kansas. He started his career at the Hutchinson News Newspaper.

“It was my first job out of K-State and I think I learned how to be a newspaper photographer at the Hutch News.”

And he made award-winning unforgettable pictures during his Kansas years.

“A story like that would get me all excited.”

Visiting with old friends at the Hutchinson news, managing editor Roger Verden remembers a talented young photographer.

“What he had was the human touch.”

“Ronald Reagan, he never took his sport court off in the Oval Office. He would be seated at the desk with his coat on. I asked him about that and he said it would be disrespectful to the office not to wear a sport coat.”

“Now this is one situation I will never forget.”

“I could just see the anger in especially Reagan’s face. I have never seen Ronald Reagan that angry before.”

Souza is a reluctant author, but he believes these pictures should see the light of day rather than rest in the archives.

“I can remember three or four instances where I was thumbed out of the room, not by Reagan, but by his Chief of Staff, and when I heard the word ‘covert’ it was time to leave the room. I didn’t want to know that stuff.”

Larry’s Note: Souza’s got to know Obama when he was working at the Chicago Tribune and captured in pictures the new Illinois Senator’s first year in office. He subsequently recorded Obama’s rise to power. Those pictures are chronicled in Souza’s latest book: The Rise of Barack Obama. Souza is a former professor at Ohio State, a prostate cancer survivor and for those of us who know him….simply a nice guy with a view of American history through the lens of a camera.

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