A talk with Kennerly and fellow Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham will be held October 11 at the University of Arizona. They will introduce the university’s In the Room series, which shares firsthand accounts of being “in the room” where history was being made.
In conjunction with the acquisition of the archive, the Center for Creative Photography will open a year-long exhibition, David Hume Kennerly: Witness to History, on October 11.
The University of Arizona Center for Creative Photography has acquired the archive of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Hume Kennerly.
Kennerly is one of the most celebrated photojournalists of the modern era. His images have appeared in hundreds of publications around the world, including on the covers of Time, Newsweek and Life. He has photographed 10 U.S. presidents, from Lyndon B. Johnson to Donald Trump, and leading world figures including Queen Elizabeth II, Mikhail Gorbachev, Anwar El Sadat, Fidel Castro, Deng Xioping and many others.
Spanning more than 50 years of history dating from 1965, the David Hume Kennerly archive features nearly 1 million images, prints, objects, memorabilia, correspondence and documents. It includes iconic portraits of U.S. presidents, world leaders, celebrities and individuals, as well as personal correspondence and mementos such as the helmet and cameras that Kennerly used while photographing the Vietnam War. The archive attests to the integrity of the news photographer’s career, as he trained his lens on history as it was being made, often providing exclusive documentation of momentous global events.
“The extraordinary archive of photos by David Hume Kennerly is an asset for scholars, students and visitors to campus. His visual legacy will be an integral part of our curriculum,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. “He is already working with the Center for Creative Photography to create programming that will draw on his experience and expertise and will spark conversations throughout our campus and broader community.”
The University of Arizona's acquisition of the archive comes as the university is introducing new curriculum that will leverage the power of photography to change how history is understood. Last year, Kennerly was appointed as the first University of Arizona Presidential Scholar, an honorary position dedicated to encouraging interdisciplinary work and the study of photography among the arts, humanities and social sciences. Kennerly’s archive will provide innovative resources to learn and build upon current understanding and knowledge of world history.
“The Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona is the pinnacle of photographic institutions. Their dynamic leadership values the importance of images, and they are committed to incorporating them into the wider curriculum at the university, ” Kennerly said. “Having my archive join the work of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and so many other great photographers at the CCP is hands-down one of the most exciting and satisfying moments of my life.”
Depicting the powerful and the powerless, Kennerly’s photographs helped define the genre of political photography and portraiture in the modern era. Giving viewers a renewed understanding of both famous personalities and unknown subjects, his images offer probing examinations of everyday life and intimate explorations of global political events such as the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Middle East Peace process and Camp David Accords in the 1970s, Jonestown, Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, and 9/11. Seeking to record historic events, often in dangerous places, Kennerly’s foresight about how images could impact the public catalyzed his relentless drive to create intimate documentation of history in the making.
The archive’s photographs reveal Kennerly’s extraordinary eye for capturing subjects both human and geographical. Whether celebrities on set, vacationers on holiday or presidential candidates during intimate moments of celebration, such as the 2009 photograph of the Obamas on the night of his inauguration, Kennerly’s images capture the historical zeitgeist of the era and define the high standards of candid journalism that the American public expects from the media.
“David Hume Kennerly’s contribution to the practice of photojournalism is unmatched, and the Center for Creative Photography is poised and proud to steward such a critical body of work," said Anne Breckenridge Barrett, associate vice president for the arts at the University of Arizona and director of the Center for Creative Photography. "Adding the Kennerly archive to our unparalleled holdings will not only allow the Center to connect the relevance of Kennerly’s work to the photographic legacy we uphold, but will allow us to focus our priorities around digital access, engagement and expansion.”
It is fitting that the Kennerly archive find its home at the place founded by his colleague, friend and world-renowned photographer, Ansel Adams. The Center for Creative Photography collects, protects and promotes the relevance and importance of photography, deepening an understanding of how the medium impacts society. Kennerly’s work joins the work of more than 2,200 photographers, including W. Eugene Smith, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Edward Weston and Garry Winogrand.