President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama watch 4th of July fireworks display from the roof of the White House on July 4, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza). Ordered.July 4, 2009“President and Mrs. Obama were watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the roof of the White House. What a great vantage point to not only see the fireworks, but also watch the Foo Fighters who were performing on the South Lawn.”(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)€
July 4, 2009 Pete Souza: “President and Mrs. Obama were watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the roof of the White House. What a great vantage point to not only see the fireworks, but also watch the Foo Fighters who were performing on the South Lawn. I made this photograph standing on my tiptoes, using a telephoto lens hand-held with a slow shutter speed.” President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama watch the fireworks display from the roof of the White House on July 4, 2009.Pete Souza—The White House
President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama watch 4th of July fireworks display from the roof of the White House on July 4, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza). Ordered.July 4, 2009“President and Mrs. Obama were watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the roof of the White House. What a great vantage point to not only see the fireworks, but also watch the Foo Fighters who were performing on the South Lawn.”(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)€
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Fourth of July celebration with military personnel and their families on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2010. "Salute to the Military" USO Concert  performance by Brandi Carlile. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome military families attending the Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)A young girl salutes President Barack Obama as he shakes hands along a ropeline with members of the military and their families during the Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)July 4, 2011"I'm always trying to capture how people react to the President especially when he works a rope line. On the Fourth of July, the President was greeting members of the military and their families on the South Lawn when a young girl struck a salute as the President approached."(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch fireworks from the roof of the White House during a Fourth of July celebration for military families and White House Staff on the South Lawn, July 4, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Family and friends of the Obama family watch the Fourth of July fireworks from the roof of the White House, July 4, 2014.  (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and family and friends watch the Fourth of July fireworks from the Truman Balcony of the White House, Saturday, July 4, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
July 4, 2009 Pete Souza: “President and Mrs. Obama were watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the roof of the White
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Pete Souza—The White House
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President Obama's Official Photographer Selects His Best July 4th Photos

Jul 01, 2016

For Pete Souza, President Obama's chief official photographer, the Fourth of July is pretty much like any other day: "Stay close to the President and see what happens," as Souza describes it to TIME. Each year, as the nation celebrates Independence Day, the President and First Lady host military heroes and their families on the South Lawn of the White House. An afternoon barbeque is followed by a concert and the traditional Fourth of July firework display.

And while Souza, who's been following Obama since 2004—first while working for the Chicago Tribune and then while at the White House—claims that Independence Day is just like any other day, he admits that it's also the day he's able to dress "very casual." It's also an opportunity for the photographer to capture the Obamas in an atmosphere that focuses on family and fireworks.

As Obama prepares to celebrate his last Independence Day as Commander-in-Chief, TIME asked Souza to select his favorite photographs from the last seven celebrations. "I was trying to show some variety in the types of images I make every year," he says of his selection. "There’s the fireworks for sure, but also the President often greets military families on the South Lawn who have come to listen to music and watch the fireworks."

For this year's celebrations, Souza hopes to "make a picture that I haven’t made before," he tells TIME. "That’s really my daily goal. It’s special only in the sense that I know this is the last time I’ll ever be on the roof of the White House during the fireworks."

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

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