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.”
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