Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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David Douglas Duncan


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Follow link for an enlarged imageYankee Nomad: A Photographic Odyssey (1966) / view images from this book

Duncan’s fifth book would become his own autobiographical magnum opus. A large and energetic volume of words and stories, combined with over 500 of his own photographs, Yankee Nomad claimed an important place in the literature of photography by giving a vibrant sense and vigorous narrative of what the life of a world-class photojournalist entailed during the mid-twentieth century.

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From the book jacket text:
David Douglas Duncan is one of the veterans of twentieth-century camera reporting. Yankee Nomad is his own story — often violent, sometimes gentle, always action-filled — highlighted by more than 500 of his photographs, 130 of them in color.

In this century, a new breed of nomad has been born, a new professional caste — the photo-journalist. A former Life magazine photographer, David Duncan has traveled the earth on assignments ranging from bizarre to dangerous; he has photographed many of the most powerful and unusual figures of our time, including Gandhi, Nehru, Eisenhower, Khrushchev, the legendary Ibn Saud, Maurice Chevalier and Picasso. Duncan's genius is to capture the one vignette that epitomizes a turn of history — or the character of his subject. Two of his earlier works, The Kremlin and Picasso's Picassos, were the first "art" books to appear on best-seller lists.

The man behind the camera is an intrepid adventurer. The photographs in Yankee Nomad are at once an intensely personal record of an extraordinary existence and a perceptive commentary on the world of the mid-century decades of war and peace.

Compiled over a period of thirty years, and containing nearly 100,000 words, the photo-text sequences in Yankee Nomad include:

Arizona, 1934. With his first camera, Duncan unknowingly "shoots" gangster John Dillinger.
Peru, 1940. Giant killer squids of the Humboldt Current, never before photographed.
Philippine Islands, 1945. A Japanese traitor guides American bombers to his jungle headquarters.
Tokyo Bay, 1945. The Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri.
Iran, 1946. On migration across Persia with Qashqai nomads.
Palestine, 1946. The fight for free-Israel.
India, 1947. Mountbatten relinquishes power to Nehru.
Saudi Arabia, 1948. An oil gusher is burned intentionally for Duncan.
Korea, 1950. The liberation of Seoul; Marines freeze, fighting out of Chinese trap.
Germany, 1952. The birth of the Iron Curtain.
Egypt, 1952. King Farouk's foolish world; the first nationalistic African revolution.
Indochina, 1953. Roots of the war in Viet-Nam.
Morocco, 1955. The idyllic life of the Berbers in a real Shangri-la.
Afghanistan, 1955. Crossroads of tyrants and gods — nomad Duncan's favorite desert wilderness.
Soviet Union, 1956. The Kremlin; Khrushchev shouting "We'll bury you!"
Ireland, 1956. Connemara — enchanted land of the leprechauns.
Picasso, 1957-62. The Picasso no one has ever seen — as an Apache chief. Duncan ruins Picasso's last known self-portrait.
Washington, D.C. The Kennedy Era and a book that never was. Duncan's letters to Mrs. John F. Kennedy declining a White House invitation to make a book entitled The White House; Duncan's reasons for refusal — the only regret in his professional life.

Yankee Nomad concludes with a magnificent photographic essay on Paris — the revolutionary sequence that brought (from McCall's magazine) the highest price ever paid for a picture story.