UA acquires archive of photojournalism legend David Hume Kennerly
Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Hume Kennerly, who will speak at the UA on Friday night with historian Jon Meacham, has added the archive of his 50-plus years of photojournalism to the Center of Creative Photography collection in Tucson.
More than 1 million images, prints and other documents from Kennerly's career have been added to the vast collection at the museum and photography study center at the University of Arizona.
Kennerly won a 1972 Pulitzer for feature photography in a year when he captured famous images of the Ali vs. Frazier heavyweight bout at Madison Square Garden, photographs of the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia, and refugees escaping into India from war-wracked East Pakistan.
With a career that began in 1965, Kennerly, 72 years old, has photographed every president from Lyndon Johnson to Donald Trump, along with world leaders such as Queen Elizabeth II, Mikhail Gorbachev, Anwar El Sadat, Fidel Castro, Deng Xioping and others. His work has appeared on the covers of Time, Life, Newsweek and other publications. As the official White House photographer for President Gerald Ford, he took an exclusive photo of Betty Ford dancing atop a table in the Cabinet Room on Ford's last day in office.
Kennerly became a professional photojournalist straight out of high school in 1965, working for the Oregon Journal and then the Oregonian newspaper, before joining the staff of United Press International. He covered politics and sports, and then was a combat photographer in Vietnam.
"The Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona is the pinnacle of photographic institutions. Their dynamic leadership values the importance of images, and they are committed to incorporating them into the wider curriculum at the university," Kennerly said. "Having my archive join the work of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and so many other great photographers at the CCP is hands-down one of the most exciting and satisfying moments of my life."
"The extraordinary archive of photos by David Hume Kennerly is an asset for scholars, students and visitors to campus. His visual legacy will be an integral part of our curriculum," said University of Arizona President Robert Robbins. "He is already working with the Center for Creative Photography to create programming that will draw on his experience and expertise and will spark conversations throughout our campus and broader community."
Last year, Kennerly was appointed as the first UA presidential scholar, an honorary position dedicated to encouraging interdisciplinary work and the study of photography among the arts, humanities and social sciences.
In conjunction with the acquisition of the archive, the CCP will open a year-long exhibition, "David Hume Kennerly: Witness to History," on Friday. A talk with Kennerly and fellow Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham, a historian and author, will be held Friday night at Centennial Hall. They will introduce the university's In the Room series, which shares firsthand accounts of being "in the room" where history was being made.
"David Hume Kennerly's contribution to the practice of photojournalism is unmatched, and the Center for Creative Photography is poised and proud to steward such a critical body of work," said Anne Breckenridge Barrett, UA associate vice president for the arts and director of the Center for Creative Photography. "Adding the Kennerly archive to our unparalleled holdings will not only allow the center to connect the relevance of Kennerly's work to the photographic legacy we uphold, but will allow us to focus our priorities around digital access, engagement and expansion."
Kennerly's work has been collected by the Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress and National Portrait Gallery.
From the UA's announcement about the archive joining the CCP collection:
Depicting the powerful and the powerless, Kennerly's photographs helped define the genre of political photography and portraiture in the modern era. Giving viewers a renewed understanding of both famous personalities and unknown subjects, his images offer probing examinations of everyday life and intimate explorations of global political events such as the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Middle East Peace process and Camp David Accords in the 1970s, Jonestown, Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, and 9/11. Seeking to record historic events, often in dangerous places, Kennerly's foresight about how images could impact the public catalyzed his relentless drive to create intimate documentation of history in the making.
The archive's photographs reveal Kennerly's extraordinary eye for capturing subjects both human and geographical. Whether celebrities on set, vacationers on holiday or presidential candidates during intimate moments of celebration, such as the 2009 photograph of the Obamas on the night of his inauguration, Kennerly's images capture the historical zeitgeist of the era and define the high standards of candid journalism that the American public expects from the media.