David Hume Kennerly is our interview guest this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton
Original Air Date: April 30, 2011 on SiriusXM Satellite Radio “POTUS” Channel 124. Click above to listen
On our XM-Sirius broadcast, we obviously talk a lot about images.
Images are what give us a sense of place that go along with the words in a newspaper or the voiceover in a news report. In print journalism, the practitioners call it “the art.”
Indeed, in our time starved world, we often don’t have more time than to glance at the top of the fold or flip though a magazine, and absorb for a second the meaning of the images to get the whole story. It’s what gives us the overused adage: a picture is worth a thousand words.
If that’s true, and I think Adam and I believe it is, than the million or so images David Hume Kennerly has seen published since shooting for Roseburg, Oregon’s “The Orange R” in 1962 constitutes a billion words of content in an ever evolving story spanning nearly fifty years.
He took some of the last pictures of Bobby Kennedy before he was gunned down in 1968. He shot the Amazing Mets when they won the world series in 1969. In 1972, at the age of 24, David’s work won him the Pulitzer Prize for a portfolio taken of the Vietnam War, Cambodia and East Pakistani refugees near Calcutta. And for good measure, the Pulitzer committee also honored him that year for iconic imagery of the Ali-Frazier fight at Madison Square Garden.
But as a body of work, Kennerly was just beginning. He’s photographed every U.S. present since Richard Nixon and established through his unparalleled access the modern role of White House photographer to President Gerald Ford.
Few photographers have had as varied a career as Kennerly, and given the way technology and cost are changing the business of photojournalism, it’s likely that few photographers will equal the breadth and range of Kennerly’s work.
I got to know Kennerly in the 1990s when his assignments brought him back to Washington and points beyond to cover President Bill Clinton. Truth was: I thought he was a pain in the ass. I worked days, weeks even, to craft the composition of what I imagined for presidential events, and placing photographers exactly where I wanted them to create the angles I thought through was a key ingredient to success.
Kennerly made me a failure. He knew the White House, and certainly his craft, a lot better than I did. And a guy who walks into deadly combat armed with nothing more than three cameras around his neck is certainly not going to take flack from a Clinton aide telling him where to stand.
In the end, Kennerly’s success was my success, because a man who spends a lifetime looking through a lens to bring home the truth is a person who gives an inquiring public exactly what it wants, and needs.