Pete Souza, the White House’s official photographer, has been winding down his time in the Obama administration with a series of retrospective posts on Instagram. The series has garnered a lot of media coverage, and for good reason. Souza has documented some of the president’s most intimate moments over the last eight years — playing with his daughters, sitting alone in his office — and his photography is consistently beautiful. In these waning days of the Obama era, Souza’s Instagram has served as a poignant reminder of the dramatic change that will unfold with Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday.
Few of Souza’s photos have captured that feeling — the sense that we’re all tick-ticking our way toward the top of a very high roller coaster — as powerfully as one he posted yesterday. Taken at the end of Obama’s final press conference, the photo shows the president waving goodbye to the press corps, his head bowed from behind a podium. Two reporters bookending the front row have their hands raised, trying to squeeze in one last question. The journalists seated between them stare straight ahead, seemingly into the void-of-the-unknown that awaits us all with the incoming administration.
Obama hasn’t been the most transparent president (far from it), and his aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers deserves far more criticism than it has received. But there are signs that a Trump administration could be even more hostile to the media. The president-elect has repeatedly derided legitimate news organizations as “fake news,” as he did during his theatrical press conference last week, even as he continues to spread lies and conspiracy theories himself. Trump says he won’t move the press corps out of the White House briefing room, as previously reported, but that “some people in the press will not be able to get in” — raising the prospect of a pool full of the “sycophants” that Obama warned about yesterday.
Potentially seismic change is on the horizon, and covering it accurately may be more difficult than it has been in decades. We can only hope that journalists will continue raising their hands and shouting over the din, like the two in Souza’s photo, and that Souza’s legacy of behind-the-scenes Instagramming won’t die away under the incoming regime. According to Time, Trump has yet to name a White House photographer.