|David Hume Kennerly
David Hume Kennerly was only 18 when he took the last picture of Robert Kennedy alive.
"One of the biggest moments in my life was photographing Robert Kennedy on the night he was assassinated,” said Kennerly, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer. “I was in a crowded labor hall and I asked one of the professional photographers that was there how to get through the hall; he told me to grab his backpack and come on.”
Kennerly spoke to a packed room of aspiring photographers, Black Hills State University students, faculty, staff and community members.
“The night I photographed Kennedy was the single most important night of my life,” Kennerly said. “It was also one of the hardest nights for me.”
Kennerly has spent his career taking pictures of the century’s biggest fight with Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, the Vietnam War, The Rolling Stones, Miles Davis, Queen Elizabeth, and Ansel Adams. He was also former President Gerald Ford’s personal photographer in the White House. He told the crowd that if the passion for photography is there, then you will succeed.
“Capture things that no one else sees. You are essentially getting paid for the way that you see things,” Kennerly said. “Everyone can take pictures these days with iPhones, but not everyone can see things like photographers.”
Kennerly, who has been a photographer since he was 18, said that photographers are storytellers, without the text.
“When I was in Vietnam I was a UPI photographer. This meant I had to cover every aspect of the war. I was essentially telling stories of this war through the pictures that I took,” he said.
Kennerly took pictures of civilian life in Vietnam, pictures of bombings, a lot of action shots, and even pictures of prisoner of war camps.
“There was only one story that gave me nightmares,” Kennerly said. “It was in Guyana and there were over 900 people that were dead at the scene.”
Kennerly said that one of the most important things to do as a photographer is to make time before a photo shoot to get to know the person you are capturing.
“The more comfortable the person is around you, the better the shoot will go.”
Kennerly won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for photos taken during the Vietnam, Cambodia, and India-Pakistan Wars, and the Ali-Frazier fight in Madison Square Garden. He has won the World Press Photo Award and the Overseas Press Club’s Olivier Rebbot Award for Best Photograph. Reporting from Abroad for his coverage of President Ronald Reagan and Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s historic first summit meeting in Geneva. He was named one of the 100 Most Important People in Photography by American Photo Magazine.
Cannon has provided BHSU with worldwide speakers such as Kennerly and have also provided the photography department with Canon equipment.