50 Years of U.S. and World History, As Seen by David Hume Kennerly
Spanning more than 50 years of history dating from 1965, the David Hume Kennerly archive features almost one million images, prints, objects, memorabilia, correspondence and documents. It includes iconic portraits of U.S. presidents, world leaders, celebrities and unknown individuals, as well as personal correspondence and mementos such as the helmet and cameras that Kennerly used while photographing the Vietnam War. The archive attests to the integrity of this news photographer’s career, as he trained his lens on history as it was being made—often providing exclusive documentation of momentous global events.
A witness to history, Kennerly’s images have appeared in hundreds of publications around the world, including on the covers of Time, Newsweek and Life. He has photographed ten U.S. presidents from Lyndon B. Johnson to Donald Trump, and such leading world figures as Queen Elizabeth II, Mikhail Gorbachev, Anwar El Sadat, Fidel Castro, Deng Xioping and many others. This impressive collection of photographs are currently on view at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, in an exhibition entitled “David Hume Kennerly: Witness to History”.
“The extraordinary archive of photos by David Hume Kennerly is an asset for scholars, students and visitors to campus. His visual legacy will be an integral part of our curriculum,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. “He is already working with the Center for Creative Photography to create programming that will draw on his experience and expertise and will spark conversations throughout our campus and broader community.”
Depicting the powerful and the powerless, Kennerly’s photographs helped define the genre of political photography and portraiture in the modern era. Giving viewers a renewed understanding of both famous personalities and unknown subjects, his images offer a probing examination of everyday life and intimate explorations of global political events such as the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Middle East Peace process and Camp David Accords in the 1970s, Jonestown, the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, and 9/11. Seeking to record historic events, often in dangerous places, Kennerly’s foresight about how images could impact the public catalyzed his relentless drive to create intimate documentation of history in the making.
The archive’s photographs reveal Kennerly’s extraordinary eye for capturing subjects both human and geographical. Whether celebrities on set, vacationers on holiday, or presidential candidates during intimate moments of celebration, such as the 2009 photograph of the Obamas on the night of his inauguration, Kennerly’s images capture the historical zeitgeist of the era, and define the high standards of candid journalism that the American public expects from the media.
Anne Breckenridge Barrett said, “David Hume Kennerly’s contribution to the practice of photojournalism is unmatched and the Center for Creative Photography is poised and proud to steward such a critical body of work. Adding the Kennerly archive to our unparalleled holdings will not only allow the Center to connect the relevance of Kennerly’s work to the photographic legacy we uphold, but will allow us to focus our priorities around digital access, engagement and expansion.”