April 17, 2012. Greeting military families at Pittsburgh International Airport, Pa. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

Behind the Lens:
Hugger-in-Chief

by Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer

President Obama may be the Commander-in-chief. But clearly his wife–First Lady Michelle Obama is the hugger-in-chief.

My staff and I have been photographing her since Inauguration Day, and as the following photographs clearly show, she’s been hugging people nonstop since Day 1. Whether it’s a school child, a family member in peril, a surprised tourist, or even a famous person, the First Lady greets them with a hug.

“I’ve always been a big hugger–that’s just how I am–and it’s always my first instinct when I meet someone,” the First Lady told me.

“Hugging is how I connect to people–how I show warmth and make folks feel at home.”

Although I mostly photograph the President, I’m occasionally near the First Lady when she’s greeting people with a hug. I love to watch the reaction of people on the receiving end of her hugs. There are usually lots of smiles and sometimes tears of joy.

“I think it puts folks at ease and shows them that while I might happen to have a fancy title, I’m just Michelle,” she said.

“I’m myself–and I want to know who they are, I want them to feel comfortable telling me their story.”

So, I hope you enjoy this set of photographs from my staff and I during the past six plus years. I’m sure there will be many more hug photos to come.

Feb. 20, 2009. With a group of youngsters at Mary’s Center, a community health organization in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
Feb. 26, 2009. Greeting workers at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. (Official White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
Jan. 18, 2010. With a small group of African American seniors and their grandchildren in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
April 14, 2010. Surrounded by school children at the Escuela Siete de Enero in Mexico City, Mexico. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
Jan. 14, 2011. With former aide Kristen Jarvis. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
March 2, 2011. With students after reading “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss at the Library of Congress. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
May 25, 2011. With students from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in North London. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
June 22, 2011. With Young African Women Leaders Forum members at the Rosa Parks Library in Soweto, South Africa. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
Sept. 11, 2011. Consoling family members of those who lost their lives on 9/11, at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Feb. 16, 2012. Surprising members of the general public during their White House tour. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)
June 14, 2012. Greeting construction workers at the One World Trade Center site in New York City. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
May 18, 2013. Handing out diplomas at Martin Luther King, Jr. Academic Magnet High School for Health Sciences and Engineering in Nashville, Tenn. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
May 24, 2013. Greeting students with Kerry Washington after their performance at Savoy Elementary School in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Aug. 27, 2013. Greeting Oprah Winfrey and others at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Sept. 16, 2013. At a surprise drop by with the switchboard operators at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Oct. 28, 2013. With students from Harriet Tubman Elementary School at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Feb. 24, 2014. Greeting students from Orchard Gardens in Boston, Mass., at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Feb. 27, 2014. Greeting introducer Shanese Bryant prior to the “Let’s Move!” Nutrition Facts label event at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
July 22, 2014. With a child from the local area at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Sept. 8, 2014. Greeting students at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Ga. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Sept. 17, 2014. Greeting the mother of patient Jamarion Daughtery at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Nov. 20, 2014. With students from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe at lunch in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
March 7, 2015. Greeting family members in Selma, Ala., prior to an event to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
March 12, 2015. With Ellen DeGeneres and SYTYCD dancers during a taping of the Ellen DeGeneres Show in Burbank, Calif. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
May 1, 2015. At Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
April 22, 2015. Greeting Anaya Brodie during “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” event at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
March 23, 2014. With Sasha and Malia at the Great Wall of China. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

See other posts in the series:

Behind the Lens: Photographing the President in 50 States

Ahead of his visit to South Dakota, take a look at every state President Obama has visited.

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.