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Photojournalism and the American Presidency - Reading America's Photos
Photojournalism and the American Presidency - Reading America's Photos
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"Burning Images" Transcript
Don Carleton, Ph.D., Director of the Center for American History:

The still photograph is the basic unit of our memory. It stops a moment in time and allows us to closely scrutinize, evaluate, and observe what is in that image and what is going on.

I've seen a lot of video of the horrible scene at Jonestown in Guiana. But when I think of that terrible scene there, I always remember David Kennerly's photograph that appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

David Hume Kennerly:

If TV brought Vietnam to your living room, the still photograph took it right to your soul. And I think one of the haunting photographs is of a G.I. kind of with his shirt off, bent over a gun with a cross hanging down.

And one of the other really good pictures was Reagan and Gorbechev inside the Geneva Summit was a really, I would think, the most important moment for Reagan in his presidency. The Soviet Union was ready for a change and again that's a meeting that has profoundly affected the world.

Diana Walker:

The visual image is an incredibly important medium. I can take a picture with me. I can refer to a picture anytime. I can't do that with film or video.

It takes very little time to take in an image and they hopefully do have some information that is imparted to you about the relationships between the people involved.

There's a wonderful picture that Wally McNamee took which was a picture of Brezhnev in a receiving line. It is a wonderful picture.

Wally McNamee:

Brezhnev and Nixon were standing in line shaking hands with the guests invited to this party, including Henry Kissinger. And he brought with him to this party, the motion picture actress, Jill St. John.

Kissinger and Jill St. John shook hands with Leonid Brezhnev, the top communist. And after she passed, Leonid Brezhnev leaned over and looked down at Jill St. John in obvious newly found affection for her and also Leonid Brezhnev's interpreter leaned over his shoulder. It was a priceless moment.

Dirck Halstead:

It's ironic to me that after nearly 45 years in photojournalism that what appears right now to be my legacy, what people remember me for is a picture I took of Monica Lewinsky being hugged by President Clinton.

And I have this philosophy that when a photographer takes a picture, that moment that the shutter trips is deposited like some piece of photographic lint on your brain.

We remember history generally in terms of still images. That's the way your mind files things away.

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"Burning Images"


The Briscoe Center for American History