Official White House photographers document Presi-
dents at play and at work, on the phone with world leaders
and presiding over Oval Office meetings. But sometimes
the unique access allows them to capture watershed mo-
ments that become our collective memory. On May 1, 2011,
THE SITUATION ROOM by Pete Souza
raided Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound and killed
the terrorist leader. Yet Souza’s picture includes neither the
raid nor bin Laden. Instead he captured those watching
the secret operation in real time. President Barack Obama
made the decision to launch the attack, but like everyone
else in the room, he is a mere spectator to its execution. He
stares, brow furrowed, at the raid unfolding on monitors.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton covers her mouth, wait-
ing to see its outcome.
In a national address that evening from the White
House, Obama announced that bin Laden had been killed.
Photographs of the dead body have never been released,
leaving Souza’s photo and the tension it captured as the
only public image of the moment the war on terror notched
its most important victory.
THE SITUATION ROOM Pete Souza, 2011