David Douglas Duncan
(From Wikipedia, the
Douglas Duncan (born January 23, 1916) is an American photojournalist and
among the most influential photographers of the 20th Century. He is best
known for his dramatic combat photographs.
Duncan was born in Kansas City, Missouri, where his childhood was marked
with interest in the outdoors, which helped him obtain the rank of Eagle
Scout in the Boy Scouts at a relatively young age. Duncan briefly attended
the University of Arizona, where he studied archaeology. While in Tucson,
he inadvertently photographed John Dillinger trying to get into a hotel.
Duncan eventually continued his education at the University of Miami,
where he graduated in 1938, having studied zoology and Spanish. It was in
Miami that his interest in photojournalism piqued. He served as picture
editor and photographer of the university paper.
His career as a photojournalist had its origin when he took photographs of
a hotel fire in Tucson, Arizona where he was then studying archaeology at
the University of Arizona. His photos included one of a hotel guest who
made repeated attempts to go back into the burning building for his
suitcase. That photo proved to be newsworthy when the guest turned out to
have been notorious bank robber John Dillinger and the suitcase to have
contained the proceeds of a bank robbery in which he had shot a police
After college, Duncan was commissioned as an officer in the US Marines and
became a combat photographer. After brief postings in California and
Hawaii, he was sent to the South Pacific on assignment when the United
States entered World War II. Though combat photographers are often close
to the action, they rarely fight. However, in a brief engagement at
Bougainville Island, Duncan found himself fighting against the Japanese.
Duncan would later be on board the USS Missouri during the Japanese
His war time photographs were so impressive that, after the war, he was
hired by Life to join their staff upon the urging of J.R. Eyerman, Life's
chief photographer. During his time with Life he covered many events
including the end of the British Raj in India and conflicts in Turkey,
Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Perhaps his most famous photographs were taken during the Korean War. He
compiled many of his photos into a book called This Is War! (1951), with
the proceeds going to widows and children of Marines who had been killed
in the conflict. Duncan is considered to be the most prominent combat
photographer of the Korean War.
In the Vietnam War, Duncan would eventually compile two additional books I
Protest! (1968) and War Without Heroes (1970). Here, Duncan stepped out of
his role as a neutral photographer and challenged how the US government
was handling the war.
Aside from his combat photographs, Duncan is also known for his
photographs of Pablo Picasso to whom he had been introduced by fellow
photographer Robert Capa. Eventually, he was to publish seven books of
photographs of Picasso.
In 1966 he published Yankee Nomad a visual autobiography that collected
representative photographs from throughout his career. In 2003 this was
revised and published under the title of Photo Nomad.