Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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David Douglas Duncan


Luck and experience next came into play in March of 1946 when Jay Eyerman, the chief photographer for Life magazine and a wartime acquaintance of Duncan’s, brought the photographer to the attention of the magazine’s legendary executive editor, Wilson Hicks. One day after the job interview, Hicks made Duncan’s “dream of dreams” come true by summoning the photographer to his office and greeting him outside the office door with both question and statement: “Can you be in Persia this weekend? You are our latest Life photographer.”





Throughout the middle decades of the twentieth century, the apex of world photojournalism was to become a photographer for Life magazine. No other position within the profession held such prestige, challenge, and hard work as that afforded to the world’s number one picture magazine. At the time it was the weekly journal of word and image, telling the story of all the changes that were occurring around the globe. And David Douglas Duncan – who proved that he could report the stories with the right photographs and the correct words – came to typify the modern world-class photojournalist of this era.

Duncan covered the dramatic and the everyday with equal thoroughness and insight. His assignments for Life ranged from the end of the British Raj in India, to a world of conflicts in Turkey, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East – all viewed with journalistic clarity from both the positions of power as well as the vantage point of the person in the street. He would even play a significant role in the technological advancement of his profession with his early advocacy and use (during the Korean War) of Nikkor lenses from the then-fledgling Japanese photographic industry.

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