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White House photographer Pete Souza takes the Marketplace Quiz

President Barack Obama talks on the phone with NASA astronaut Commander Scott Kelly upon his return from a nearly yearlong mission on the International Space Station, in the Oval Office, March 2, 2016.    Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

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No matter who you are, you’ve probably had a rough day at the office that changed your perspective, or maybe you made an impulse purchase you really, really wish you could take back. This week, we sat down with White House Photographer Pete Souza and had him fill out our questionnaire inspired by experiences with money and work. 

Fill in the blank: Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you ________

Money can buy you all the camera equipment you need after Jan. 20, because that’s the day I leave my current job.

What is the hardest part about your job that no one knows?

I have not much of a personal life. It’s very difficult on my family, I’m kind of on-call all the time. I’m pretty much with [President Obama] all day long, until he goes up to the residence for dinner. And then on weekends, it depends on what’s happening in the world.

I have this Blackberry with me, 24/7, and I’m looking forward to not having that with me after Jan. 20. I think that will be quite a relief.

What was your first job?

My first job was being a paperboy for the New Bedford Standard Times in Massachusetts. I think was 10 or 11 years old. I did that for a couple of years until we moved to a different house, somebody else already had the paper route.

In a next life, what would your career be?

My job would be a record producer. I’d like to be in the studio with musicians and tell them to add a little bass here and add some more drums here, I think it’d be a fun job to do.

When did you realize you could make an actual living off of photography?

Probably not until I actually started doing it. I had gone to Boston University with the hopes of becoming a sportswriter. And in my junior year, I took a photography class, and right away I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I remember telling my mother, I came home from school one weekend, I told her I was going to be a photographer now. And she was like, “how are you going to make money?” Somehow, it’s kind of worked out.

Do you remember your first day on the job?

My first day on the job was at a small newspaper in Kansas called the Hutchinson News, and I just remember being really excited to finally being paid, every day, to take photographs. I thought that was the coolest thing.

What is your most prized possession?

I’m going to cheat and give two answers. One, my wedding ring. It signifies the relationship I have with my wife, and it’s the only thing I wear on my hand. I don’t wear a watch or anything else, but I wear that wedding ring every day.

But another really cool possession I have is, on Air Force One they serve you lunch on a cafeteria-style tray. It’s a really cool tray, it has the presidential seal on it, it says Air Force One on it, it’s not your average cafeteria tray.

One day they brought me my lunch on this tray, you know, the plate’s in the middle, and they usually take the tray away when you’re done eating lunch. On this day, they came when I finished lunch, they only took the plate away. I looked at the tray and they had made a special tray for me, and it said “Congratulations Pete Souza on your 1,000th flight on Air Force One.”

I have this little book stand in my office at the White House. I would change the photography book on top of the book stand, but since I’ve gotten this tray, it’s been there ever since. It’s a pretty cool thing to have.

What advice do you wish someone gave you before you started your career? 

I wish somebody had said to me, “Chill you, tomorrow will be okay. Don’t worry about things that go wrong, because tomorrow is another day and things are going to go right.”

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