Barack Obama’s White House photographer touched the hearts of viewers with in his new documentary about an administration that feels like lifetimes ago.
The moving photos by Pete Souza in the “The Way I See It,” a documentary produced by MSNBC and Focus Features that aired on the network Friday, triggered reactions on Twitter from tears to yearning to nostalgia.
Photos in the film show a tearful Obama embracing the parents of Sandy Hook victims, playing basketball with his daughters, letting a young Black boy touch his head to compare haircuts, and lying on his back in the Oval Office grasping a baby in a costume with floppy ears.
Souza was the official photographer for both Obama and Ronald Reagan — presidents, he said, who “respected the dignity of the office.” They also made themselves available to Souza and his camera for the sake of history. That’s something Donald Trump does not do, Souza said; Trump often only agrees to pose for staged images.
“We need authentic moments for history,” Souza said Friday in an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid. “I always looked at my job as: Just hang around. Hang around and be there when things are happening, and photograph as they’re happening. Don’t direct anything, don’t stage anything. You either get it or you don’t.”
.@PeteSouza was always there to document every moment of my presidency, from high-stakes meetings with world leaders to quiet mornings reading briefing memos. The @WayISeeItFilm is one to watch—and a reminder to get registered and make a plan to vote. https://t.co/XdZz4dh82T pic.twitter.com/sMzf6cpRVw
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 16, 2020
Souza frequently speaks out against Trump on social media, often deploying images of Obama in the White House to fuel his hits on the current president. He further drove home the comparison in his 2018 book, “Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents.”
Twitter followers who watched the documentary totally got what Souza was going for.
This is my favorite. It shows how far we've come and how far we have to go. pic.twitter.com/mVnVz0BmTM
— Individual 1 (@WildlyLiberal) October 17, 2020
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) October 17, 2020
#SHADE Watching @PeteSouza on @MSNBC OMG don’t know when I’ve been so overcome with emotions 😀😢🙂😭Hadn’t cried this much in a long time. Thank you, Pete. This was wonderful & moving. You ROCK! 💙👊🏽✊🏽 #TheWayISeeIt pic.twitter.com/S6uAA9HGxM
— agave corn 💙 #VOTEBLUE #CloseTheTrumpCamps (@agavecorn) October 17, 2020
— Tessa (@smileitstess) October 17, 2020
— Jennifer Beals (@jenniferbeals) October 17, 2020
— WellTheTruthIs (@truth_well) October 17, 2020
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) October 17, 2020
— Katelyn Moga Gesing (@mogakm) October 17, 2020
Photographer @PeteSouza is showing what happened when @BarackObama went to Newtown, Connecticut after the Sandy Hook shooting and cared for the bereaved parents. 😭😭😭
Remember when we had a President capable of empathy? #TheWayISeeIt pic.twitter.com/uq4ia6GzM7
— Vonnie 🌿 We are all Siblings (@VonnieCalland) October 17, 2020
Watching #TheWayISeeIt with my six-year-old and during the section on Sandy Hook she asks, “Were those little kids like me? My size?” How heartbreaking and absurd we continue to not act on such unnecessary violence and death. #GunViolence pic.twitter.com/mh2Ew6o3Z5
— Timothy J. Shaffer (@timothyjshaffer) October 17, 2020
Over 145,000 Americans have died from gun violence during Donald Trump’s administration. Juxtapose his callous indifference with President Obama, who said Congress’s refusal to act after Sandy Hook is his greatest regret. #TheWayISeeIt pic.twitter.com/xNuQsrC1ZI
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) October 17, 2020
— Karey🎃👻😷 (@karshaner) October 17, 2020
— The Honorable Grandma Voting For #BidenHarris (@JoeKamalaTicket) October 17, 2020
#TheWayISeeIt shows the kindness of @BarackObama & it reveals the character a President needs to have.
We need a kind, decent man or woman in that position.
“There is no substitute for empathy. It is a foundational relationship between human beings.”
- a Sandy Hook Father
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) October 17, 2020
Watching the incredible @PeteSouza relate his time in the Obama White House is #TheWayISeeIt is heartbreaking.
I miss having a president who cares about us. His family. Sandy Hook. Allies.
“There is no substitute for empathy.”
Please vote.#BidenHarris2020 pic.twitter.com/1ivx9IYuDt
— 🎃✨Oh For Crissakes, #VoteEarly! 🛹🥁✨ (@lisareynaloe) October 17, 2020
Also on HuffPost
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.