Behind the Lens: Photographing the President in 50 Countries

by Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer


Today, President Obama visits Kenya — the 50th country he has visited during his Administration. It’s also my 50th country traveling with the President.

To mark the occasion, as I did when the President visited his 50th state, I chose one photograph from each country that we’ve visited.

Traveling abroad with the President is very different.

Often times, I am at the mercy of the host country for access. Some countries are more accommodating to me than others. I am lucky to have counterpart official photographers in many countries who are extremely helpful to me in this regard. I of course try to return the help to them when they visit the White House with their head of state.

We’re also rarely in any one country for more than a couple of days, which gives us only a partial glimpse of each place. And because of security, the sites we are able to visit are often limited too.

All that said, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to visit the Pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, the Great Wall in China, Petra in Jordan, and the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar (Burma). (So I really shouldn’t complain too much.)

I hope you enjoy this gallery. And stay tuned — we’ll be adding a photograph from Kenya and additionally, Ethiopia, following his visit next week.


Afghanistan, 2012

Boarding Air Force One at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Australia, 2014

Holding a koala before the G20 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, Nov. 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Belgium, 2014

Meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and King Philippe in Waregem, Belgium, March 26, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Brazil, 2011

Visiting the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Cambodia, 2012

Departing Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 20, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Canada, 2009

Waving to onlookers from the Presidential limousine near ByWard Market in Ottawa, Canada, during his first foreign trip as President, February 19, 2009.

Chile, 2011

Being escorted to Air Force One at Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile, March 22, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

China, 2009

Touring the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China on Nov. 18, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Colombia, 2012

Greeting a young girl at the Plaza de San Pedro, Cartagena, Colombia, during the Summit of the Americas, April 15, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Costa Rica, 2013

Participating in a cultural event with Costa Rican youth and President Laura Chinchilla at Casa Amarilla, San Jose, Costa Rica, May 3, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Czech Republic, 2009

Greeting the crowd following a speech in Hradcany Square in Prague, Czech Republic, April 5, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Denmark, 2009

Meeting with European leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 18, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Egypt, 2009

Touring the Great Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx in Egypt on June 4, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

El Salvador, 2011

Visiting the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador, El Salvador, with Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas, President Maurico Funes of El Salvador, and their translators, March 22, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Estonia, 2014

Arriving in Tallinn, Estonia, Sept. 3, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

France, 2009

Looking at the view with the First Family from the Centre Pompidou modern art museum in Paris, France, June 7, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Germany, 2015

Talking with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany during the G7 summit in Krün, Germany, June 8, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Ghana, 2009

Waving to the crowd during the departure ceremony at Accra airport in Ghana, July 11, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

India, 2010

Dancing with school children and the First Lady in Mumbai, India, Nov. 7, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Indonesia, 2010

Touring the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, with the First Lady and Grand Imam Ali Mustafa Yaqub, Nov. 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Iraq, 2010

Addressing U.S. troops at Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq, April 7, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Ireland, 2011

Greeting people during a walk along Main Street in Moneygall, Ireland, May 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Israel, 2013

Visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Israel, March 22, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Italy, 2009

Touring earthquake damage during the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, July 8, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Jamaica, 2015

Under a rainbow at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Jamaica, April 9, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Japan, 2010

Eating green tea ice cream at the Kotoku-in Temple in Kamakura, Japan, Nov. 14, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Jordan, 2013

Walking in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, March 23, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Kenya, 2015

Greeting the audience at the Safaricom Indoor Arena in Nairobi, Kenya, July 26, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Malaysia, 2014

Participating in an arrival ceremony in Parliament Square, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 26, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Mexico, 2012

Talking with Chief of Staff Jack Lew at the Esperanza Resort in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, June 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Myanmar (Burma), 2012

Going barefoot at the Shwedagon pagoda in Rangoon, Myanmar (Burma), Nov. 19, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Netherlands, 2014

Admiring Rembrandt’s “Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul” at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, March 24, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Norway, 2009

Dancing with the First Lady during the 2009 Nobel Banquet at the Grand Hotel in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Panama, 2015

Touring the Panama Canal Miraflores Locks in Ancon, Panama, April 10, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Philippines, 2015

Laying a wreath at the Manila American Cemetery in Manila, Philippines, April 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Poland, 2011

Visiting with veterans at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Poland, May 27, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Portugal, 2010

Participating in an arrival ceremony with President Cavaco Silva at Belem National Palace in Lisbon, Portugal prior to the NATO summit, Nov. 19, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Russia, 2009

Dining with the First Family on the roof of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Saudi Arabia, 2014

Meeting with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at Rawdat Khuraim in Saudi Arabia, March 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Senegal, 2013

Looking through the “Door of No Return” at the Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) Museum on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Singapore, 2009

Socializing at the APEC summit dinner in Singapore with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nov. 14, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

South Africa, 2013

Visiting the prison cell of former South African President Nelson Mandela with the First Family at Robben Island Prison in Cape Town, South Africa, June 30, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

South Korea, 2012

Viewing the DMZ from Observation Post Ouellette at Camp Bonifas, Republic of Korea, March 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Sweden, 2013

Visiting the Royal Palace with King Carl XVI Gustaf in Stockholm, Sweden, Sept. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Tanzania, 2013

Watching performers on the tarmac at Julius Nyerre International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 2, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Thailand, 2012

A police officer at the Wat Pho Royal Monastery in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Trinidad, 2009

Performers at the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad, April 17, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Turkey, 2009

Walking with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from Hagia Sofia to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, April 7, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

United Kingdom, 2014

Touring Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, Sept. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Vatican City, 2014

Saying farewell to Pope Francis at the Vatican, March 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

See other posts in the series:

Behind the Lens: Photographing the President in 50 States

Pete Souza highlights his favorite photos from across the U.S., ahead of the President’s visit to South Dakota — his 50th state.

Behind the Lens: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Pete Souza describes how he captured a photo of a rainbow as the President’s arrived in Kingston, Jamaica. See the photos.

Behind the Lens: Selma, 50 Years Later

Pete Souza takes you inside the President’s visit to Selma for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. See the photos.