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Subject: Photographer David Douglas Duncan

Dead at 102
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Date Posted: Thursday, June 07, 03:21:33pm

David Douglas Duncan, ‘photo nomad’ who captured war and Picasso, dies at 102
By Harrison Smith
June 7 at 6:08 PM

Mr. Duncan, a combat photographer with the Marines, was sealed inside a cramped, acrylic-tipped tank designed to transport wounded troops. His camera in one hand, he kept a towel in the other to wipe sweat and condensation from the glass, allowing him to capture the precise moment at which Marine bombers dropped napalm on Japanese pillboxes.

Mr. Duncan, who died June 7 at 102, was widely considered one of the finest photojournalists of the 20th century. In Life magazine photo essays, television specials and about two dozen books, he captured the seemingly incongruous subjects of war and art, traveling from the front lines of battle to the treasure troves of the Kremlin in Moscow and the French studio of Pablo Picasso.

A self-described “photo nomad,” Mr. Duncan played a key role in shaping public perception of World War II and the subsequent conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Many of his photos have been exhibited by institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art and Museum of Modern Art, both in New York. “He’s really one of the giants of the medium,” said Michael Carlebach, a photographer and photojournalism scholar.

His work in Korea — published in Life, featured in his 1951 book “This Is War!” and later adapted for a set of 22-cent postage stamps — was described by the photographer and museum curator Edward Steichen as “the highest tide that combat photography has achieved.”

David Douglas Duncan in 1999 in front of one of his photographs of Pablo Picasso. (Courtesy Harry Ransom Center/Courtesy Harry Ransom Center)
[‘ … and everyday a fabulous life.’ Honoring the work of the legendary David Douglas Duncan, 100 years young.]

Embedded with the Marines in Korea in 1950, he photographed the “thousand-yard stare” of servicemen defending a hill near the Nakdong River, the destruction of Seoul as United Nations forces retook the city and the American retreat from Chosin Reservoir, where temperatures fell to 40-below zero. The weather was so cold, he said, that some of his film “just snapped, like a pretzel.”

Mr. Duncan shot in black and white, with lightweight Leica cameras and Nikkor lenses, made by the Japanese company Nikon, that he helped popularize in the West. He focused on the eyes and inner anguish of such Marines as Capt. Ike Fenton, whose men ran out of ammunition during one engagement with the enemy, and Cpl. Leonard Hayworth, a machine-gunner reduced to tears.

“This Is War!,” Mr. Duncan’s first book of photos, was dedicated in part to Hayworth, who was killed in action one day after seeing his portrait in Life.

“I felt no sense of mission as a combat photographer,” Mr. Duncan 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.”


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