The Digital Journalist
Halstead's Digital Journalist Inspires UTOPIA
May 2004

by Alison Beck

Since Dirck Halstead followed his photograph collection from Washington D.C. to Austin two years ago, his influence has steadily permeated the University of Texas. Having donated his life's work to the Center for American History News Media Archive where he has been named a fellow, he is dedicated to collecting and preserving photojournalists' collections. An exhibition of his work, Moments in Time, was on display at the Center for the past year. He has taught several courses in advanced photojournalism at the UT School of Journalism. And his Digital Journalist has inspired a new website, Photojournalism and the American Presidency.

Photojournalism and the American Presidency offers the general public, especially educators and K-12 students the opportunity to examine the relationship between the camera lens and the White House. It features historically significant images taken by four world-renowned photojournalists including Halstead, David Hume Kennerly, Wally McNamee, and Diana Walker. The site was launched in connection with the debut of UTOPIA, a digital knowledge gateway offering access to The University of Texas at Austin's vast collections of intellectual knowledge and cultural treasures. "UTOPIA provides a guided experience directed toward the general public through the university's art galleries, museums, and libraries, including the photojournalists' collections held in the archives at the Center for American History (CAH)," says Liz Aebersold, UTOPIA Project Director. "We drew inspiration for the Photojournalism and the American Presidency exhibit from the Digital Journalist by incorporating photographs, streaming audio and video to contextualize the incredible photography."

Photojournalism and the American Presidency is composed of four sections:

The Presidents;

The Photojournalists;

The Center for American History;

and Learning Tools.

The Presidential section uses iconic images taken by the four photojournalists of Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. These images enable educators to teach and students to explore and learn about those who have held the office. All photographs have captions identifying people, places, occasions, and dates. Most include a "Did you Know" statement such as the one accompanying Kennerly's photo of President Ford with a geisha.

Some of the photographs include audio files of the photojournalists describing how they were able to capture a particular image such as Walker's Ronald Reagan.

Many of the photographs include a guiding statement on how to read the image and questions to initiate discussion. An example is Halstead's "The War Decision."

There are links to other sites that enhance the content presented with various photos. For example McNamee's photo of Ronald Reagan greeting his wife with a kiss includes a caption, a "Did you know?" statement, and a link to the entry for Nancy Reagan on the White House website.

Like The Digital Journalist, the video clips of the photographers describing their images are an engaging component of this website. Viewers can learn firsthand how these photojournalists gained access to their subjects such as McNamee on "Taking Advantage of the Moment."

Walker describes her quest to give insight into the character of the people whom she photographs as well their relationships with others included in the image.

Halstead discusses taking the photograph of President Clinton embracing White House intern Monica Lewinsky during a campaign fundraiser a few days before the '96 presidential fundraiser.

David Kennerly discusses the power of the media in the segment "Photojournalism will never die."

Another section of the Photojournalism and the American Presidency website provides biographical information about the photographers and showcases their best images. Also available are links to the The Digital Journalist and the photojournalists' own web sites.

The Learning Tools section of the website introduces students to the women who served as First Ladies of the United States from 1960-2001 and provides educators with curriculum guides and lesson plans.

Utilizing photographs taken by the four award-winning photojournalists, this curriculum unit encourages exploration of the various roles and responsibilities that are part of the job of the First Lady. Through analysis of the photographs, students can apply the skills that historians use to understand primary source documents.

All photographs featured on the website Photojournalism and the American Presidency are preserved in the CAH archives where they are available for research.

The Center for American History is the University's agency to support and facilitate research, teaching, and public education in U.S. history. "Photojournalism is a key component of the way news is seen and perceived in this country today," states CAH director Dr. Don Carleton. The Center has been developing its photographic resources for the past 15 years through the donations of a number of journalists--including Halstead, Kennerly, McNamee, and Walker. The images in these collections are visual evidence of events, places, and people that have shaped and defined the American experience. They preserve a rich social and cultural record that supports the study and interpretation of history. Many of the photographs have grown significantly in importance over the years -- from a civil rights leader at the beginning of his crusade to a future president honoring an American hero and that same president embracing an intern. When these photos were captured for news stories, it would have been difficult to predict how time would change their historical value. The website perpetuates the life of these photographs as research documents which can now be used to educate students worldwide.

© Alison Beck