Richmond, Va.
Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015

VCU Staff Member, Alum and Incoming Student Participates in White House First

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gary Garbett, the communications designer for VCU Technology Services, received an undergraduate degree from VCU in 2008 in interdisciplinary study with a concentration in communication arts and media studies and returned to earn a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in studio arts in 2010. In the fall, Garbett will join the inaugural class of students in VCU’s new master of product innovation program, the first degree of its kind in the United States. His interests are varied, and he’s an eager learner.

Last month, Garbett was selected with 26 others from around the country to participate in the first-ever White House Google+ Photowalk, an opportunity for photographers to receive an intimate tour of the White House grounds and to get a behind-the-scenes look at the work that photographers do capturing the historical moments that the White House hosts every day. For Garbett, it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take some memorable photos and to add to his ever-expanding education.

“It was really quite an honor,” Garbett said.

The Photowalk involved a private tour of the White House gardens and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Garbett was impressed throughout with his surroundings and found the possibilities for photographs almost overwhelming. Everywhere he turned he found something striking and full of historical weight. There were even moments of serendipity, such as when Bo, the Obama family’s dog, approached the group with its trainer and posed for photographs.

Garbett said one of the highlights of the visit was meeting with Pete Souza, chief official White House photographer, and Sonya Herbert, a White House photographer who spends most of her time with the first lady. Souza and Herbert shared their experiences documenting history. Souza showed the group a series of behind-the-scenes photos that he’d taken and gave the story behind each photo – the circumstances of the moment and the tactics that he’d chosen to get the best possible shot.

“It was great to hear the stories behind the photos and to hear how he worked to show the human side to these moments,” Garbett said.

It was not until the tour was over and Garbett had returned home to review the day’s work that the significance of his visit struck him.

“When I got home and started processing the images, I realized where I’d been and what I’d seen,” Garbett said.

The White House Google+ Photowalk is featured on the White House blog and includes some of Garbett’s photos. It can be found at

The White House. All photos by Gary Garbett
Staircase at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building
The First Lady’s Vegetable Garden