The Most Powerful Photos of the President in 2012


Though we're already four days into 2013, it's hard to not think back on all of the memorable moments in 2012. As an election year, 2012 was especially unforgettable for reelected President Barack Obama. Photographer Pete Souza was there to capture the President, his family, and the White House staff's most poignant moments throughout the year. While some images have circulated throughout the media, captivating audiences and allowing us to see the President interact with public figures like gymnast McKayla Maroney and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, others give us a more intimate view of him, one that we haven't seen before.

The official White House collection of photos, aptly labeled as Year in Photographs 2012, reminds us of various events that took place in 2012, affecting everyone across the nation. From the mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown to Hurricane Sandy in New York and the wounded in Afghanistan, there have been some heartbreaking events. Souza shares intimate, solemn, and caring moments of the President offering his compassion to both victims and brave soldiers. Of course, President Obama also had his fair share of joyous moments in 2012. With a mix of powerful, heartwarming, and humorous photos, Souza's images give us a chance to see the many sides of the person often referred to as the Leader of the Free World.

Top photo: "One of the most memorable moments of the year was when the President hugged Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as he walked onto the floor of the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol to deliver his annual State of the Union address." (Jan. 24, 2012)


"We were doing an event at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. Before speaking, the President was looking at some of the automobiles and exhibits adjacent to the event, and before I knew what was happening he walked onto the famed Rosa Parks bus. He sat in one of the seats, looking out the window for only a few seconds." (April 18, 2012)


"Backstage at the Democratic National Convention, the President watches as former President Bill Clinton delivers his nomination speech, before surprising the crowd with an onstage appearance together after the speech." (Sept. 5, 2012)


"The President delivers remarks in the pouring rain at a campaign event in Glen Allen, Va. He was supposed to do a series of press interviews inside before his speech, but since people had been waiting for hours in the rain he did his remarks as soon as he arrived at the site so people could go home to dry off ." (July 14, 2012)


"The President pretends to be caught in Spider-Man's web as he greets Nicholas Tamarin, 3, just outside the Oval Office. Spider-Man had been trick-or-treating for an early Halloween with his father, White House aide Nate Tamarin in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. I can never commit to calling any picture my favorite, but the President told me that this was HIS favorite picture of the year when he saw it hanging in the West Wing a couple of weeks later." (Oct. 26, 2012)


"The President had just met with the U.S. Olympics gymnastics team, who because of a previous commitment had missed the ceremony earlier in the year with the entire U.S. Olympic team. The President suggested to McKayla Maroney that they recreate her 'not impressed' photograph before they departed." (Nov. 15, 2012)


"The President and First Lady were attending the game between the U.S. Men's Olympic basketball team and Brazil in Washington, D.C. During the first half, the jumbotron flashed couples on their 'Kiss Cam', where they are then induced by the crowd to kiss each other. But neither the President or First Lady saw themselves when they were flashed on the 'Kiss Cam', and some in the audience booed when they didn't kiss. At halftime, as we walked to the locker room to visit the U.S. team, daughters Malia and Sasha were asking their parents why they hadn't kissed during their 'Kiss Cam' moment. Both the President and First Lady said they hadn't even realized what had happened and didn't know why people were booing. So in the second half, when they appeared again on the 'Kiss Cam', the President leaned over to kiss the First Lady amidst audience cheers as Malia and the Vice President watched overhead on the jumbotron." (July 16, 2012)


"The President hugs the First Lady after she had introduced him at a campaign event in Davenport, Iowa. The campaign tweeted a similar photo from the campaign photographer on election night and a lot of people thought it was taken on election day." (Aug. 15, 2012)


"The President hugs Stephanie Davies, who helped her friend, Allie Young, left, stay alive after she was shot during the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colo. The President visited patients and family members affected by the shootings at the University of Colorado Hospital. The President later told their story in a news conference." (July 22, 2012)


"Two days after the shootings at Newtown, the President traveled to Connecticut to meet with the victims' families and give remarks at a prayer vigil. The President spent hours greeting family members. Difficult as that was for everyone, the one moment that helped sooth the pain was when he posed for a photo with the siblings and cousins of Emilie Parker, one of the 20 children who died that day in Newtown. I see both sadness and hope in this photograph, and I know after a lot of tears that day, it meant so much to the President that everyone was able to smile for a moment in this family photo. Thanks to the Parker family for allowing us to show this photograph publicly." (Dec. 16, 2012)


"New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg views a map with the President during an aerial tour to view damage from Hurricane Sandy in Breezy Point, the Rockaways and Staten Island in NYC. Also onboard were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary." (Nov. 15, 2012)


"A soldier hugs the President as he greeted U.S. troops at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan." (May 1, 2012)


"For the President, this was one of the most poignant moments of the his first term. He was visiting wounded warriors in the intensive care unit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. He had just presented a Purple Heart to Sgt. Chase Haag, who had been injured by an IED just hours before. Sgt. Haag was covered with a blanket and it was difficult to see how badly he was injured. He was also seemingly unconscious, or perhaps just asleep. The President whispered in his ear so not to wake him. Just then, there was a rustling under the blanket and Sgt. Haag, eyes still closed, reached his hand out to shake hands with the President. 'I'll never forget that moment,' someone else in the room later told me." (May 1, 2012)


"A candid portrait of the President during a meeting, juxtaposed with the paintings of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, busts of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation. It's a difficult angle to get because I had to sit in front of the closed Oval Office door and hope that no one would open the door and knock me over." (Sept. 28, 2012)

The White House on Flickr
Pete Souza website

Email me when people comment –

You need to be a member of My Modern Met to add comments!

Join My Modern Met