Did You Catch My Cameo in The Way I See It?

This Just In: I’m Famous

Did You Catch My Cameo in The Way I See It?
Photo Credit: President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Cuba President Raúl Castro in the Oval Office, Sept. 18, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza on Flickr) The use of this photo in no way reflects approval or endorsement of Pete Souza, President Obama, the First Family, or the White House.

When I got a text saying, “Did you know you’re famous?” I figured sarcasm was in order. I responded with, “What did I do now?” The reply was not what I expected at all.

“You named Pete Souza’s book.”

Come again?

The Way I See It

Pete Souza is a photojournalist who served as the official White House photographer for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barak Obama. When Obama left office, Souza became an expert at trolling the current administration on Instagram with timely photos from the Obama White House. Over the weekend, MSNBC aired a documentary on Souza’s work, titled The Way I See It.

Toward the beginning of the documentary, there’s an exchange with Souza and his wife, Patti Lease. The two are talking about Souza’s first Instagram post. President Obama is sitting on the desk in the Oval Office with large red drapes in the background. Those drapes were promptly replaced with gold ones when Trump took office. The caption Souza posted read, “I like these drapes better than the new ones. Don’t you think?”


Dropping Shade

The documentary cuts to a talk Souza is giving in an auditorium. The Instagram post is displayed on the screen. Addressing the crowd, Souza says, “There was even a comment on that very first post from somebody that said, ‘Pete is dropping shade with a comment on drapes.’”

That somebody was me! Out of the 1,200 comments on the Instagram post, my nine words left an impression on Pete Souza. The screen scrolls through a few comments and displays mine for the audience. The MSNBC producers even added the blue “verified” checkmark next to my name, which I think is hilarious. But then things get even wilder.

Television capture by John Shughart.
Television capture by John Shughart.

Continuing with the crowd, Souza says, “And I have to admit, I had no idea what ‘dropping shade’ meant. I knew what I was doing; I just didn’t know it was called ‘dropping’ or ‘throwing shade.’”

You all, Pete Souza named his photo book Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents. He had a gallery exhibition titled Throw Shade Then Vote. In some strange little part of the internet, my offhanded comment influenced a man whose work I greatly admire.

A Voice For Good

In all seriousness, though, everything (and I mean everything) we ever do online is always there, even after we forget ever posting. Things never go away. Who knew a comment I left on an Instagram post in January 2017 would be in a documentary three years later?

Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

While I am all for a return to the more carefree and expressive world of blogging we all once knew, our posts can be powerful tools. Posting our thoughts and opinions online may cause people to think or act, even if we have no idea it happens. For this reason, we must always use our voices for good.

At the end of the day, if all we do is post our opinions online, we’re not doing anything to improve our world. We must speak up on injustice and do what we can to make our neighborhoods, communities, cities, states, and country better for everyone.

Ultimately, as a wise person once said, we all need to throw shade then vote.

Oh, and through the transitive property, I’m now close personal friends with President Obama because, you know, that’s how the internet works.

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!