David Douglas Duncan

 David Douglas Duncan

I have always thought of there being two types of photographers: those that capture the moment, and those who create it.

I think that documentary war photographers such as Don McCullin, Robert Capa and David Douglas Duncan, they are the true artists. They are image makers who have captured moments that have changed the way we see the world.

David Douglas Duncan, Exhausted US Marine at Con Thien, Vietnam

David Douglas Duncan is one of the most influential photographers of the 20th Century. He photographed WW2, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War as well as many other things (like Pablo Picasso). After WW2, he joined LIFE.

His career as photojournalist had its orgin when he took photoghraphs of a hotel fire in Tucson, Arizona.

While probably best know for his images of the Korean War, I find his Vietnam shots to be the most stirring. The capture of the moment when soldiers are walking past dead bodies or just a picture of a portrait that shows the fear they are facing, everything is overwhelmed and full with emotions.

The photos tell a story about a wrong second of someone else’s hate, or love, or indifference. They clearly represent the action where soldiers are facing the fight, the fear in their faces and death of their friends and family members.

Most of his work is dismal, with very dramatized sky and dark foreground. As it is captured in black and white I think it adds an extra mood and sadness to the scene.

With good composition skills and paying attention to every single detail, he has managed to bring across the sense of the environment the soldiers are forced to live in. I think the images clearly tell the story of how devastating war can be.

David Douglas Duncan,
[Marines load their dead into a waiting chopper on the metal-slab airstrip at Khe Sanh. February 1968.] “Clouds sank lower upon Khe Sanh and its airfield . . . Night was near when two great birds beat through the clouds to squat upon the runway . . . messengers come now to carry off the fallen men of that day’s battle. Men joining those other men killed in all other wars. Then they were gone. And it was night.” War Without Heroes, p. 248.

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4 Comments

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