David Douglas Duncan, the photographer every photojournalist aspired to be

If you were a news photographer in the 20th century, you probably wanted to be like David Douglas Duncan — courageous, fearless, adventurous, and constantly seeing what others don’t see.

Duncan died this past week at the age of 102.

His legacy of photography — particularly combat photography — is unmatched. Here’s part of what the New York Times said in its obituary of him:

There are no heroes in David Douglas Duncan’s images of war. Dark and brooding, mostly black and white, they are the stills of a legendary combat photographer, an artist with a camera, who brought home to America the poignant lives of infantrymen and fleeing civilians caught up in World War II, the Korean conflict and the war in Vietnam.

“I felt no sense of mission as a combat photographer,” Mr. Duncan, who was wounded several times, told The New York Times in 2003. “I just felt maybe the guys out there deserved being photographed just the way they are, whether they are running scared, or showing courage, or diving into a hole, or talking and laughing. And I think I did bring a sense of dignity to the battlefield.” Source: David Douglas Duncan, 102, Who Photographed the Reality of War, Dies – The New York Times

Duncan traveled the world and never seemed to shrink from covering a story with his camera, no matter how remote or difficult the story might be. His main talent was shooting soldiers and combat situations, but his range was broad. He spent many years of artist Pablo Picasso and produced eight books of photographs on his life.

There was always something compelling about Duncan’s work — something that made you stop and look.

RIP,  David Douglas Duncan.

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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