Andrei Crandall, a 14-year-old student at Longfellow Middle School in Berkeley, got the opportunity of a lifetime recently when he was invited to the White House by the President’s personal photographer, Pete Souza, and ended up snapping his own shots of Barack Obama.
Andrei and his two mothers, Kathleen Crandall and Lori Gitter, were invited to meet Souza on Sunday March 30 for a private tour of the photographer’s offices in the executive building, as well as the West Wing and the Oval Office.
The middle schooler was then invited back the following day to the White House to take photographs of the President at the ceremony on the South Lawn honoring World Series winners the Boston Red Sox.
Crandall took pictures alongside photographer Chuck Kennedy in a special area set aside for the White House photographers.
It all started over a year ago when the then 13-year-old emailed Souza asking him for advice, and Souza not only responded, but became something of a mentor for the aspiring snapper.
But the path to the White House started even further back than that, as Crandall showed promise from an early age.
He picked up a camera when he was four years’ old, on an airplane coming to the U.S. from Russia where he was adopted. His mother Kathleen said he took up photography seriously when he was 10 and his aunt Maureen gave him a good camera.
He was juried into the San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild when he was just 12.
Members of the guild encouraged Crandall to reach out to professional photographers to study them and to seek their guidance. Souza was one of the photographers Andrei picked to reach out to.
The first email he sent to Souza spoke about his acceptance into the guild. Souza responded, and, from then on, Crandall kept the President’s photographer up-to-date with articles that were written about him, shows he had done — including at Alta Bates, where Gitter works as an ICU nurse, Collector on College Avenue, and Expressions Gallery.
Crandall also emailed Souza when he became a city of Berkeley Youth Commissioner (when he shadowed and took photos of Mayor Tom Bates0, and when, last summer, he became the youngest intern at the California State Senate photographer’s office.
Lorie Shelley, the official Senate photographer, has also been a mentor for Crandall, ever since his internship. When she heard Crandall was going to Washington DC to meet Souza she was very happy for him, and she said she always wanted to meet him herself. Crandall asked for an invitation for her too and Souza said yes.
As for his future, there’s no doubt where Crandall would like to end up career-wise.
“If he could take Pete Souza’s job tomorrow he would be there!” said Kathleen.
900 Grayson and Café Clem in Berkeley are both showing photographs by Andrei Crandall currently. There will also be an exhibition of Andrei’s photographs from his day at the White House in the Art Gallery Hall at the Better Homes and Gardens/Mason-McDuffie office at 2095 Rose St., Suite 100. Crandall will be showing his work and answering questions May 1, 6-7 p.m. The prints will be for sale, with 50% of the proceeds going to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. Refreshments will be served.
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