News Release — January 11, 2004
"Photo Nomad" By David Douglas Duncan
Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1916, David Douglas Duncan became one of the foremost photographers of the twentieth century. Starting with a 39-cent plastic camera his little sister gave him as an eighteenth birthday gift and continuing with his famous Leica with Nikon lens, he captured unforgettable images -- of soldiers, artists, actors, friends (both human and canine), and landscapes -- that graced the covers and pages of Life Magazine, National Geographic, and his twenty-four acclaimed books.
Now, David Douglas Duncan presents "Photo Nomad" [W. W. Norton & Company; December 22, 2003; $29.95 cloth], a unique and inspired photo-autobiography that spans the twentieth century in images and text. Duncan jumps, skips, and hops through images like memories, expressing himself in poetic captions, sidebars, letters, and mini-essays that convey the full impact of a moment or event in a flash, like the photographs they accompany.
Duncan, one of the most experienced war photographers, covered World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and all are represented in the book. Here are his famous photos taken while fighting with Fijian guerrillas behind enemy lines on Bouganville and, later, his record of Japan's surrender aboard the USS Missouri. "Photo Nomad" includes his legendary Life covers of marines toughing it out in Korea, as well as his heart-wrenching images of civilians, like a wounded Korean mother nursing a child whose father has just been killed, and a tortured Greek shepherd nearly blinded by his neighbors.
On other pages, Picasso grins gleefully from his bathtub; Henri Cartier-Bresson becomes the subject, for once, poised with his own Leica before him; Ava Gardner and Robert Redford don or lift the mask of glamour; and the young Pat Metheny and the cast of "Jesus Christ, Superstar" let the photographer backstage.
In landscapes of breathtaking beauty, Duncan reveals the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan, the moors of Ireland, and the sunflowers of Provence bowing their heads before the setting sun.
Duncan's moving collection of works from "Photo Nomad," as well as his personal archive, can be viewed at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin. Upon a suggestion from Dallas' Stanley Marcus, David Douglas Duncan donated his archive to the Ransom Center in 1996. The archive, expansive and unique, serves as a major resource for the study of photojournalism.
Valued at over $15 million, the archive contains Duncan's lenses, cameras, and other photographic equipment as well as all of his wartime photos and negatives, including his award-winning coverage of both the Korean and Vietnam wars. In addition, the collection includes the total body of writing, editing, and design work Duncan undertook to produce his war trilogy: "This is War!" (1951), "I Protest!" (1968), and "War Without Heroes" (1970). The collection also includes the correspondence, contracts, text, dummies, layouts, and proofs for each of Duncan's books, and houses extensive correspondence between Duncan and his family and friends, editors at LIFE, and numerous notables of the twentieth century.
"Although quintessentially an American, Duncan has also been a nomad, roaming through the heart of the twentieth century," said Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley. "His archive is thus especially important to us, because its range and scope -- both geographic and chronological -- is unmatched by any of our other photographic holdings."
Duncan's desire to tell his story was first realized in 1951 with the publication of "This Is War!" The production of books soon became a central part of Duncan's creative process, satisfying a deeper need than the bylines and picture credits of years of magazine and newspaper articles.
"Despite his firm commitment to his photojournalistic heritage, the book became the ultimate means for Duncan to reach his viewing audience," said Roy Flukinger, the Ransom Center's Senior Curator of Photography and Film. "Book publication also provided the most complete means of presenting his words and his pictures in his own way."
In nearly all instances, Duncan controlled the size, scale, design, layout, and editorship of each of his publications. Generally, each volume went through numerous full-scale mock-ups, involving cut-and-paste composites of his layouts and several drafts of his texts. Each book in his archive is backed up by a number of full-size dummies that reveal the evolution of his thoughts about how his work should be presented to ever-growing audiences.
"Photo Nomad" is additional evidence of Duncan's position as one of the twentieth century's greatest photojournalists. The Ransom Center is honored to have the permanent archive of his creative odyssey.
Through 464 pages of vibrant color and arresting black and white, "Photo Nomad" presents the reader with a vivid mosaic of Duncan's work. "Photo Nomad" is a sweeping record of the twentieth century and of a life in images.About the author: David Douglas Duncan lives in Mouans-Sartoux, France.
Title: Photo Nomad
Author: David Douglas Duncan
Publication Date: December 22, 2003
Thanks to W.W. Norton for allowing the Ransom Center to excerpt from their release about "Photo Nomad."