Former White House photographer steps out from behind the camera in Dawn Porter’s documentary
The documentary “The Way I See It” is a riveting and surprisingly emotional film that gives an unparalleled behind-the-scenes look at the presidencies of Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, as seen through the eyes of renowned photojournalist Pete Souza, official White House photographer in both administrations.
Directed by award-winning documentarian Dawn Porter, “The Way I See It” is inspired by Souza’s books, the New York Times #1 bestsellers “Obama: An Intimate Portrait” and “Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents.” The film is produced by Porter, along with Academy and Emmy Award-winner actor Laura Dern (“Big Little Lies” and “Jurassic Park”), Academy and Emmy Award-winning producer Evan Hayes (“Free Solo”) and Jayme Lemons (“Enlightened”). It’s now playing in select theaters and its television premiere is Friday, Oct. 16 at 10 p.m. on MSNBC.
Porter, a lawyer-turned-filmmaker who spent two years working on the 2020 documentary “John Lewis: Good Trouble” about the late Congressman and civil rights activist, knew that directing this movie was an opportunity she could not pass up. “The urgency of the time we’re living in certainly was a huge impetus for me, and frankly why I worked so hard to have the movie come out when it’s coming out,” says Porter in a call.
“The Way I See It” presents Souza’s experience in the White House through his remarkable photographs and his wry observances of two singular men he worked with and befriended. It also shows how the South Dartmouth, Massachusetts native and a former national reporter for the Chicago Tribune has transformed from a quiet force behind the camera to an outspoken critic of the current administration.
“I know Pete didn’t come to this place where he is lightly,” says Porter. “It’s certainly a slow evolution, and I think it speaks to the importance of his message that he chose to become a politically opinionated person publicly.”
During Souza’s eight years in the Obama administration, he was given unfettered access to photograph the essence of life and work inside the White House. He not only captured momentous events such as the 2015 march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches, but also everyday moments between President Obama and Americans from all walks of life.
“The Way I See It” documents Souza’s post-White House life, his book tour and live show, and draws on his extensive photographic archives to give audiences a glimpse of his work over his decades-long career. Through interviews with former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, historian and biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin and others, audiences will understand Souza’s need to speak up. “Reagan and Obama respected the dignity of the office,” he says in the film. “The presidency is a serious job and I was going to do everything I could to make sure people didn’t forget that.”