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David Douglas Duncan:

An Inventory of His Papers and Photographs at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Duncan, David Douglas, 1916-
Title: David Douglas Duncan Papers and Photography Collection
Dates: 1907-2007 (bulk 1950s-1990s)
Extent: 341 boxes, 69 oversize boxes, 5 flat file drawers (189 linear feet)
Abstract: The collection consists of photographic prints (approximately 36,800), negatives (approximately 87,200), transparencies (approximately 21,900), field notebooks, legal files and financial documents, clippings, tear sheets and rotogravure pages, handwritten and typed manuscripts, book dummies, reproduction proofs, exhibition brochures and posters, albums and scrapbooks, military records, awards, and magazines, all documenting the life and career of American photojournalist David Douglas Duncan.
Languages: English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian
Access:

Open for research.

Access and Use Notes :

Financial records, including bank statements, insurance information, and telephone records, are restricted until Duncan's death. When possible, documents containing restricted information have been replaced with redacted photocopies.

Negatives are restricted from use unless no print(s) is extant.

Due to their large size and framing, advance arrangements are required to view the ninety-nine exhibition prints from the 1971 War Without Heroes exhibition.

Collection materials are generally in good condition. Some pages have released from the spiral binding of many of the field notebooks, so extra care should be taken when handling these. Given the ephemeral nature of book dummies, these items are somewhat fragile; when possible a book cradle should be used when viewing them. In several of the dummies, the adhesive has failed, so care should be taken to ensure that pasted images or text panels are not separated from the dummy. In many of the more recent dummies, pages are only slightly adhered together as Duncan used a rubber-cement-like adhesive. With a staff member's assistance, these pages may be accessed carefully.

Faxes on non-permanent thermal paper have been photocopied onto acid-free paper to preserve the image. Identification information on highly acidic envelopes or on cardboard boxes has also been photocopied, otherwise all original folders were kept with the materials.




Acquisition:

Gifts, 1996-2007 (G10650, G11020, G11217, G11212, G11464, G11468, G11615, G11617, G11871, G11949, G12326, G12413)

Processed by:

Liz Murray, 1999, and Mary Alice Harper, 2008

Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


Photojournalist David Douglas Duncan was born January 23, 1916, in Kansas City, Missouri, to Kenneth Stockwell and Florence Watson Duncan. He grew up in Kansas City, where he attended W.C. Bryant Primary School and South West High School. Following graduation in 1933, Duncan enrolled at the University of Arizona in Tucson, intending to pursue a career in archaeology. In 1935, he transferred to the University of Miami at Coral Gables, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Zoology and Spanish in 1938.

In 1934, Duncan received his first camera, a 39-cent Bakelite Univex Model A, for his eighteenth birthday from his sister Jean. In 1937, Duncan entered his photograph of a Mexican fisherman, casting his nets, into the Third Annual Newspaper National Snapshot Awards, where it was awarded Second Place in its class. Encouraged by his success, Duncan purchased a new camera with his prize money and returned to Mexico, where he began developing picture stories he could sell to the rotogravure sections of various U.S. Sunday newspapers. Between 1939 and 1943, Duncan documented a variety of subjects, including turtle fishermen in the Caribbean, the West Indies, northern South America for Pan American Airways, the coasts of Peru and Chile, and Mexico and Central America for Nelson Rockefeller's Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA). His photo-stories appeared in the Chicago Sunday Tribune, the Kansas City Star, the Miami Daily News, and National Geographic. In 1942, Duncan was drafted for World War II; on February 17, 1943, he was made Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

Between 1943 and 1946, Duncan served as a combat photographer for the Marines, traveling throughout the Solomon Islands and the Western Pacific. He captured images of servicemen and women, various airfields, and the Japanese surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. When Duncan was honorably discharged from the Marines on February 1, 1946, he was a First Lieutenant and had earned a Purple Heart, a Legion of Merit, six battle stars, three air medals, and two flying crosses.

A month after his military discharge, Duncan was hired by Wilson Hicks as a staff photographer for Life magazine. Three days later, on March 30, 1946, he was on a plane headed for his first Life assignment: Tehran, Iran, threatened by Russian tanks. As a Life correspondent to the Middle East, Duncan was based out of Cairo, Istanbul, and Rome. In Tehran he met Leila Hanki, the daughter of a Lebanese mother and Turkish father. They were married on September 20, 1947, and eventually settled in Rome.

From 1946 to 1956, Duncan traversed the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Africa covering numerous stories, including the Alhambra in Spain, Japanese culture, the Qashqai nomads of Persia, Islamic women in purdah, the nascent oil-boom in Saudi Arabia, the end of British occupation of India, and war. During the decade Duncan was with Life, he chronicled the effects of war, the Iron Curtain, and the end of the French colonial empire. He witnessed the King David Hotel blast in Jerusalem in 1946, the Greek Civil War in 1948, and, most famously, the Korean War. Duncan's desire to put his words with his images and show the horror of war resulted in the publication of his first book This Is War! (1951), a summation of his Korean War coverage published one year after the start of the war.

In 1956, Duncan left Life and became a special correspondent to Collier's magazine. In that year he photographed Connemara, Ireland, the Gaza Strip, and Marrakech, Morocco; made the first of five trips to Russia to photograph the treasures of the Kremlin; traveled to Germany to document the new Mercedes-Benz 300 SL "Gullwing" for an advertising campaign; and met and befriended Pablo Picasso. By the end of that year, Collier's had folded and Duncan began working as an independent photojournalist.

Duncan spent the latter 1950s and early 1960s photographing Picasso's home life and work, resulting in The Private World of Pablo Picasso (1958), a revealing look at the artist's life, and Picasso's Picassos (1961), a catalog of Picasso's collection of his own work never before seen by the public. Duncan also took four more trips to Moscow to finish his research on Russia and the Kremlin's treasures, ultimately publishing The Kremlin in 1960.

While a necessary part of his career, Duncan's nomadic lifestyle proved incompatible with the home life his wife desired. By the end of the 1950s Duncan was living in southern France, and in 1960 began building a home for himself and his soon-to-be second wife, Sheila Macauley. In 1962, after Duncan obtained a Mexican divorce from his first wife, he and Sheila were married at City Hall in New York City on July 13.

For the first half of the 1960s, Duncan worked on his first photo-autobiography, Yankee Nomad (1966), but in 1967 he returned to war photography. Working under the sponsorship of Life magazine and ABC News, Duncan covered the Vietnam War in Con Thien in October of that year, and Khe Sanh in February 1968. Within one month of returning from Khe Sanh, Duncan published I Protest! (1968), professing his outrage at what he had witnessed. He later summarized his entire coverage of the Vietnam War in War Without Heroes (1970). In August of 1968, Duncan returned to the United States to cover the national presidential conventions for a series of NBC News television specials. The following year, Duncan published Self-Portrait: U.S.A. (1969), a photo-narrative of the people, places, and events as they unfolded.

By the early 1970s, Duncan was all but retired from commercial photographic assignments, leaving him more time to focus on his book projects. Throughout the following three-and-a-half decades, he published sixteen books, including a second photo-autobiography, Photo Nomad (2003), five books dedicated to the life and memory of Picasso, a dog trilogy about his pets, a summation of his coverage of the Muslim world while working for Life, and a series of books introducing the works of other artists.

Duncan resides in the south of France with his wife Sheila, and continues to develop book projects.


Duncan, David Douglas. Yankee Nomad. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966.

A more complete biography and timeline for Duncan's life may be found in the Ransom Center's David Douglas Duncan online exhibition at: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/web/ddd/ .


Scope and Contents

Photographic prints, negatives, transparencies, field notebooks, legal files and financial documents, clippings, tear sheets and rotogravure pages, handwritten and typed manuscripts, book dummies, reproduction proofs, exhibition brochures and posters, albums and scrapbooks, military records, awards, and magazines all document the life and career of David Douglas Duncan. The collection is organized into the following five series: I. Photojournalism, 1934-2005; II. Book Projects, 1951-2006; III. Correspondence, 1908-2007; IV. Career-Related Materials, 1940-2004; and V. Personal Papers & Photographs, 1907-2007. While most of the materials are in English, a number of book and exhibition reviews are in foreign languages, including Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian.

Duncan's entire photographic career is documented in the form of transparencies, negatives, photographs, captions, essays, field notebooks, legal files, and tear sheets, clippings and rotogravure pages found in Series I. Included are Duncan's earliest images beginning in 1934, all materials from his ten years as a staff photographer for Life, and all freelance assignments and personal film through 2004. Featured prominently are Duncan's coverage of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Pablo Picasso, and the 1968 national presidential conventions. Lacking from the record are the transparencies for the Mercedes-Benz 300SL advertising campaign (Duncan gave these to Mercedes-Benz), the complete master set of Picasso's collection of his own work (Duncan gave these to Claude Picasso), and film of Jacqueline Picasso following her husband's death (Duncan destroyed this film at her request).

Between 1951 and 2006, Duncan published one portfolio and twenty-five books, but also envisioned at least nine others. Series II forms the bulk of the entire collection and includes all materials used for and generated during the book-making process: source photographs and notes, final image selections, versions of text, dummies, proof sheets and dust jackets. Mounted master photographs are available for some publications including This Is War!, I Protest!, and Self-Portrait: U.S.A. Marketing and publicity tools, book reviews, and correspondence with publishers and printers are also present. Some generic items, such as book covers, paper samples, and adhesive letters used for all book projects complete this series.

Series III comprises of the bulk of Duncan's correspondence. It consists of both business and personal correspondence in the form of letters, telegrams, and faxes. Included are requests from publishers and organizations for approval to reprint Duncan's photographs and reader requests for his books, as well as correspondence with family, fans, friends, former U.S. Marines, colleagues, booksellers, publishers, and editors. Also present are a number of poignant letters from the families of soldiers killed or wounded in Korea or Vietnam, whose photographs appeared in Life features or one of Duncan's books. Correspondence about legal issues, specific book projects, and exhibitions is found with Duncan's photojournalism, book project, and career-related files in other series.

Series IV, the smallest of the five, consists of correspondence with galleries and museums, photographs and negatives of exhibitions in situ, photocopies of images loaned, and a handful of lecture slides. Also included are early inventories of Duncan's stories for Life and National Geographic, and a small amount of research done on film in the 1940s and 1950s.

Series V, Personal Papers & Photographs, contains among other things: albums and scrapbooks; photographs, negatives, and transparencies; awards; diplomas; souvenirs; military records and memorabilia; gifts received; and auction catalogs. Clippings about, biographies of, and short autobiographies by Duncan are found here. Included too are files he kept on various friends, current events, and subjects, including photojournalist Alexandra Boulat, painter Paul Jenkins, health issues, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

In addition to photographic and manuscript material, the Ransom Center also received numerous books, cameras and equipment, video and audio recordings, works of art, and personal effects from Duncan. These materials have been transferred to the appropriate units within the Ransom Center. Additional collection material that has arrived since 2007 is not currently processed.

Series Outline

    Series I. Photojournalism, 1934-2005
    Subseries A. Pre- Life Magazine Career, 1934-1945
    Subseries B. Life Magazine Assignments, 1946-1956
    Subseries C. Freelance Career, 1946-2003
    Subseries D. Field Notebooks, 1938-1995
    Subseries E. Legal Files, 1957-2003
    Subseries F. Tear Sheets, Clippings, & Rotogravure Pages, 1937-2005

    Series II. Book Projects, 1951-2006
    Subseries A. Published, 1951-2006
    Subseries B. Unpublished, 1969-2001
    Subseries C. Book-Related Materials, undated

    Series III. Correspondence, 1908-2007
    Subseries A. General, 1936-2007
    Subseries B. Family, 1908-2004

    Series IV. Career-Related Materials, 1940-2004

    Series V. Personal Papers & Photographs, 1907-2007
    Subseries A. Family, 1907-2004
    Subseries B. Financial Records, 1937-2004
    Subseries C. Personal Records & Memorabilia, 1916-2004
    Subseries D. Subject Files, 1937-2007

Notes Concerning the Folder List

In processing this collection, Duncan's file titles were maintained whenever possible. Any title information provided by the cataloger was placed in brackets. When handwriting was hard to read, questionable words were also bracketed, as were names which were suspect due to logical inconsistencies. Duncan's own abbreviations appear throughout the folder list; the following list is provided to assist the researcher:

    CH = Switzerland
    DDD = David Douglas Duncan
    KC = Kansas City, Missouri
    KCMo = Kansas City, Missouri
    NYC = New York City
    PP = Pablo Picasso
    U.S.M.C. = United States Marine Corps
    Y-Y = Yo-Yo
    Zeke = Sheila Duncan

Additional abbreviations used by the cataloger:

    B/w = Black-and-white
    Negs. = Negative(s)
    Photos = Photograph(s)
    OV = Flat File Drawer

Arrangement by format

    Photos & Manuscripts, Boxes 1-300
    Negatives, Boxes 301-320
    Transparencies, Boxes 321-343
    Oversize Materials, Boxes 344-412 and Flat file drawers OV 106-110


In addition to photographic and manuscript material, the Ransom Center also received numerous books, cameras and equipment, video and audio recordings, works of art, and personal effects from Duncan. These materials have been transferred to the appropriate units within the Ransom Center.


Due to size, this inventory has been divided into two separate units which can be accessed by clicking on the highlighted text below:

David Douglas Duncan Papers and Photographic Collection--Series I. [Part I] [This Page]

David Douglas Duncan Papers and Photographic Collection--Series II-V. [Part II]


Subjects

Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973.

Korean War, 1950-1953.

Kremlin (Moscow, Russia).

Presidential candidates--United States--1960-1970.

Vietnam War, 1961-1975.

World War II.

Places

Arab countries.

Central America.

Japan.

Kansas City (Mo.).

Middle East.

Document Types

Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.).

Film negatives.

Film transparencies.

Gelatin silver prints.

Letters.

Notebooks.