Inside White House InstaMeet: President Obama Invites Social Media Into East Wing

The commander-in-chief’s official photographer Pete Souza led 20 lucky Instagram users on a tour

Last Updated: March 22, 2015 @ 7:34 PM

Four years after launching the event, Instagram celebrated its 11th Worldwide InstaMeet in style at the White House in Washington, DC on Saturday.
The gathering marked the first InstaMeet that has taken place inside the White House and the first time that photographers have been able to bring their phones into the White House to snap pictures.

Of the 1,500 Instagram users who applied, only 20 of the White House’s followers were chosen to tour the East Wing with President Barack Obama’s official photographer Peter Souza.

The White House’s official blog stated that “President Obama and the First Lady are committed to opening the doors of the White House and truly making it the “People’s House.” Our InstaMeet continues a series of online and offline engagement events that invite citizens around the country to engage with their government.”

Photographer Branden Harvey was among the Instagrammers given the ultimate “Cribs” tour, and he also used the landmark occasion to experiment with rising platform Snapchat.

“Unfortunately I didn’t see the President or the First Lady or the girls. I did get to spend a lot of quality time with Pete Souza, the President’s photographer. I’ve looked up to him for a long time and loved getting to talk to him,” said Harvey, whose attendance was subject to a full background check by the Secret Service.

Harvey told TheWrap that the closest the group got to President Obama was the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the First Family’s residence.

“I loved seeing little touches of history left by different Presidents and First Ladies. So many new White House traditions were started under each administration and so many of them are still being practiced today,” said Harvey, who said he relished getting in trouble for sitting on some of the furniture.

“The most surreal moment was walking into the Cross Hall and seeing the red carpet and the beautiful lighting. It’s a location I’ve seen again and again during important Presidential speeches and being there in person felt incredible.”

According to the people giving him the tour, Hillary Clinton’s portrait is the first female pantsuit portrait in the White House. And Laura Bush had her portrait repainted twice because she didn’t like her smile.

Meanwhile, Souza told user Sarah Burris that his challenge for Instagram is that he doesn’t want to be in a historic situation using an iPhone. “If there’s a moment about to happen, I want to take it with that camera” he said, pointing to an actual camera. “It’s knowing when to pull out the iPhone.”

For more on the White House InstaMeet, search the Instagram hashtag #WHInstaMeet or click here.

Fun Fact: Hillary Clinton is the only First Lady to take her portrait wearing a pantsuit. #WHInstaMeet #WhoRunTheWorld A photo posted by Chasity S. Cooper (@chasityscooper) on

@brandenharvey snapping a photo of Chief White House Photographer @petesouza #WHInstaMeet

A photo posted by Eye Opener TV (@eyeopenertv) on

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