Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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David Douglas Duncan


Amateur awards and “picture story” opportunities began to open up before the young student and, upon graduating in 1938 from the University of Miami with a BA in zoology and Spanish, he set off on his course. He later recalled that critical year: “Picture possibilities were everywhere in 1938. Picture ‘stories’ were practically unknown. Picture markets were a joke. The guys and girls who used cameras to reflect and interpret this changing world created a new nomadic life and professional caste: photo-journalist.”




Throughout this “amateur” period of his career, Duncan edited dozens of picture stories for the Sunday sections of numerous American newspapers. In the five years before his entry into the U.S. Marine Corps he learned his craft, honed his natural artistic sensibilities, learned to put pictures and words together, and published widely in U.S. newspapers and magazines. He networked with and learned from a landmark generation of managing editors and picture editors of major American newspapers – what he would recall as “ . . . a fabulous time of meeting rare men.” He also learned how to find more far-ranging work, which allowed him to travel, to experience new lands, to begin to answer the incessant call for adventure – and, of course, to produce marvelous photographs and exceptional stories to accompany them.

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