War Stories: David Hume Kennerly’s Images From Vietnam To Obama

David Hume Kennerly,
David Hume Kennerly, "Lone Soldier, A Shau Valley," April 27, 1971, from the portfolio that won him the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

David Hume Kennerly is one of the grand old men of photography. He got his start at the end of the last golden age of photojournalism in the 1960s and ‘70s—signified by his joining the staff of Life magazine just weeks before it ceased weekly publication. By then he’d already won a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 1972 “for his dramatic photographs of the Vietnam War in 1971.”

“A lot of the pictures really depicted the courage and valor of the American soldiers who were fighting the war,” Kennerly has said. “That is really important for back then and for future generations.”

The Santa Monica, California, photographer speaks about his images at the Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, at 2 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 11, where his work is included in the museum’s riveting survey of photojournalism from the end of the 1950s to the start of the 1970s, “Kennedy to Kent State: Images of a Generation.”

Many of his own shots for Time and Newsweek and from his stint as chief White House Photographer for the Gerald Ford administration have become icons. He’s photographed everything from Richard Nixon waving goodbye from the steps of the presidential helicopter after resigning in 1974 to Barack and Michelle Obama, heads together, smiling, on inauguration night in 2009.

“That’s the one I like the best — the Obamas in the elevator,” Kennerly told Oregon’s Mail Tribune newspaper in 2010. “That goes to the heart of what I do, revealing something of people’s personalities and who they are. It was a gallant moment. It could have been a high school prom. I love that picture.”

David Hume Kennerly, “Nixon Leaving the White House,” August 9, 1974.

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