Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: The Way I See It

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Copyright: Focus Features

To live life capturing the moments of modern history is a worthwhile achievement for anyone entering into such a role. The Way I See It, the newest documentary from Dawn Porter, documents the man behind many of the memorable photos of the Obama-era of American politics. Pete Souza has spent eight years photography the moments that matter, and now he dishes the dirt on what he thinks of American politics now. As if we needed another voice on that cesspool, but you may want to cast aside any impressions you may have of what this documentary intends to do, because it’s one of the few to take a balanced look at the life of a man right at the centre of it all, not pulling any strings.  

A man who, even when at the heart of the political circus and all its highs and lows, has spent eight years keeping his political stance completely silent. His commitment to taking photos of the truth and nothing but is admirable. He summarises it as best he can in moments of questions and answers, narration, and interviews discussing what he set out to achieve with the meaning of his photographs. His preparation for the fleeting moments, big and small, is admirable, and a desire to create lasting images has clearly been achieved by this photojournalist. He does well, Porter’s documentary is both interesting and thoroughly engaged in its subject. There’s balance, to a degree. A bit of time spent in the presence of an admittedly friendly Ronald Reagan makes way for the main focus of the documentary, eight years spent photographing the life of the 38th President of the United States.  

The photographs Souza took are, frankly, phenomenal. That term, a life in pictures, really comes to life here as he looks back on decades of work. The access he had with both the Reagan and Obama administration is unprecedented, and he provides some of the most amazing photos, he uses it all to his advantage. His aim of capturing a period of history is something many strive for, but I couldn’t name anyone other than Souza who does this. Photographers capture moments that, had they not been taken, would be unbelievable. Souza admits his faults, his wishes, and the comparisons between his work and that of his successor are shown with great detail. 

Documenting history is crucial, so it’s nice to see documentaries like The Way I See It shed light on those that are doing just that. A man truly dedicated to his craft, candidly ambitious, but an incredibly admirable feat of endurance, to capture so many moments. We need real moments of real history, Souza summarises it best in this documentary, he brings a good discussion to the table about the importance of capturing these moments. A superb, fairly neutral documentary that gives more a look into how Barack Obama’s character is portrayed by the private moments, and how Souza’s photography captured that.