Insights into the New Millenium
October 2002

by Alison Beck

Last month I described the photographic archives at the University of Texas Center for American History and how we actively work with our photojournalists to announce the availability of their collections for research. This month I am pleased to tell you about the Center's most recent project to showcase the work of photojournalist David Hume Kennerly whose archive here at the Center contains more than one million images.

Kennerly's newest book is Photo du Jour: A Picture-a-Day Journey through the First Year of the New Millennium, published just this month by the University of Texas Press as part of the Center's Focus on American History Series . To promote Photo du Jour, the Center is sponsoring a national tour of images from the book. The first exhibit on the tour features 144 images at the Smithsonian Institution's Arts & Industries Building in Washington D.C.

For the past four decades Kennerly has photographed national and international events from the Vietnam War to the impeachment trial of President Clinton. A contributing editor for Newsweek since 1996, Kennerly also has served as a contributing photographer and editor for George, Time, and Life magazines and UPI, and as personal photographer for President Gerald R. Ford. In 1972, Kennerly received the Pulitzer Prize for his feature photography of the Vietnam War. He also has photographed more than 35 covers for Time and Newsweek.

In 1999, while preparing to cover his eighth presidential campaign, Kennerly conceived the idea of creating and publishing a visual diary of America in the first year of the twenty-first century. In addition to documenting history-making moments, he planned to turn his lens on daily life surrounding these moments. Kennerly wanted a special camera for this project—not the Canon EOSIN he uses for his news work. He chose to work with only one camera and one lens—the Mamiya 7, a medium-format range-finder camera with a 43 cm 4.5 wide-angle lens; throughout the project he shot with black and white film. Kennerly captured one photograph a day for his project while at the same time he focused on the 2000 presidential campaign for Newsweek. The project took him to thirty-eight states and seven countries. He crossed the U.S. from coast-to-coast forty-one times and jetted across the Pacific Ocean four times and the Atlantic twice. Altogether, Kennerly traveled more than a quarter of a million miles. The result is a stunning and diverse collage of people, landscapes and nature, cityscapes and architectural structures, large and small events, famous landmarks, and shots of his own family. Photo du Jour contains 515 of the images Kennerly took in the year 2000.

During the course of his project, Kennerly showed his work to Don Carleton, a long-time friend and the director of the Center for American History. Carleton recognized that Kennerly's photographs would create a coherent and historically significant publication which would further the Center's mission to support research and education on the history of the United States. Carleton urged Kennerly to have his book published by the University of Texas Press as part of the Center's Focus on American History series, for which he serves as series editor. As Carleton noted, "We are honored to introduce David's new projects to Austin and America." Additional sponsorship for the book was provided by Digimarc Corporation and Paris Photo Lab in Los Angeles.

Kennerly's passion for photography both in the middle of the action and behind the scenes is imbedded in Photo du Jour. Both the book and the exhibit feature photos of everyday American life as well as dozens of images that Kennerly shot "on the road" during the 2000 presidential campaign, including candid and never-before-seen photographs of Al Gore, John McCain, and George W. Bush. Photo du Jour is also a vivid benchmark about life before September 11, 2001. In the words of Howard Fineman, Chief Political Correspondent for Newsweek magazine and author of the book's introduction, "Kennerly's work is a "detailed portrait of us at the Millenium--the last year, as it turns out, of what we now can see was our innocence."


© Alison Beck
Contributing Columnist

Alison Beck is Associate Director at the University of Texas Center for American History. She heads the Research & Collections Division, which is comprised of the Archives and Manuscripts, the Library, and the Reference Units. She plans and manages projects to preserve and provide access to the Center's extensive collections of photographs, publications, manuscripts, newspapers, and sound recordings. These projects include digital initiatives. Ms. Beck oversees publishing of the Center's website.

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