Imagine being on the South Lawn of the White House when President Nixon waved good-bye. Going to dinner with Ronald Reagan and Queen Elizabeth. Snapping the infamous picture of the president and the intern. Standing by the Commander-in-Chief as he rallies the troops for war.
The photographers are invisible. Their photographs are unforgettable.
It takes a neuroscientist to explain why we do this but ...we tend to store still images in our mind. The still photograph is the basic unit of our memory. And allows us to closely scrutinize, evaluate, and observe what is in that image and what is going on.
When historical events occur, a photojournalist is there. Eyewitnesses to the critical events of the day, they capture more than a picture. Their photographs open a window of understanding into the character of newsmakers – the ingredients of history that often elude the written word.
Our perception of current events has been shaped in so many ways by the work of Dirck Halstead, David Hume Kennerly, Wally McNamee, and Diana Walker.
They are masters at establishing relationships and gaining access. They are in the right place at the right time. They push and get pushed. They race to the scene and then wait. They go to war. They go to celebrations. They capture the heartache, tension, and joy of a nation. Their perseverance and expertise take us past the photo-op and beyond the commentary. They capture the rare and revealing private moments of our American presidents.
Lewis L. Gould:
We wouldn't know the presidents as we know them without the work of photojournalism. It is the living, breathing stuff of history. And it's unrefined. No other mind other than the photojournalist has shaped it or given an interpretation to it.
Photographs are important for research in history because they contain useful information. There's all sorts of bits and pieces of a story that you can see illustrated in a picture.
Combined, these pieces constitute a more complete picture of our nation's history. Our nation's news media. Our nation, period. And, they are here at the University of Texas at Austin for all to see, to study, and to enjoy.
Lewis L. Gould:
There's no other institution that I'm aware of in the United States other than the Center for American History at the University of Texas that has this kind of material and is making it so available. It's a wonderful treasure for the people of Texas.
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