Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
August 31, 2016

On that Crazy Pete Souza Obama VR Shot

photo: Pete Souza. caption: President Obama watches a virtual reality film captured during his trip to Yosemite National Park earlier this year.

So you understand just how “virtual” a picture this is, here’s our take on Instagram:

If, a few years ago (scratch that, even this morning) someone told us this picture celebrated the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service…. mind blown!

As Obama approaches the end of his presidency, his run can be framed in a lot of ways. In terms of engagement, he and Michelle went “all in” from the beginning with social media. Given the enormous challenge of introducing themselves and demonstrating, also, they were “just like us,” they also immersed themselves in, and thoroughly leveraged popular culture. Finally, as Obama developed deeper concerns, an area he gravitated to was climate change, the natural environment and also America’s National Parks. Put that all together and, voilà, you get the photo above, courtesy of Pete Souza’s Instagram feed. (Original caption below.)

Because the Souza/Obama team, instinctively or otherwise, has made consummate use of the visual medium, there are other things to note about the photo. For example, there is the way it appreciates nature in the old style given the painting above the desk. More significantly, though, there’s the body language. In an electric contrast to the deeply pessimistic and divisive tone of the Trump campaign, the social media Obama (like we also saw in this lighthearted White House science fair photo this year), transmits a completely different vibe about leadership, and the atmosphere. It’s about vision, the future,  what’s new, not taking yourself too seriously, and what you can see if you’re looking up.

(photo: @petesouza/Instagram. caption: President Obama watches a virtual reality film captured during his trip to Yosemite National Park earlier this year.)

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