I first read about Dirck in Kennerly’s 1979 book “Shooter.” They were best of friends and worked side by side in Vietnam and Washington, D.C., for UPI and Time magazine. It was Dirck who had “convinced the UPI executives in New York that a brash young photographer named Kennerly who was working for them in Los Angeles should be brought to New York for training … and it wasn’t long after I arrived in Manhattan that I began getting important assignments thanks to Dirck,” wrote Kennerly in his book.
In 2007, I had the privilege of finally meeting Dirck during a two-day Platypus workshop at The Fresno Bee in California. I drove down from Sacramento with a few of my Sacramento Bee colleagues, and Dirck taught us the basics of video. I still think about him when teaching video to students. He was enthusiastic, kind and patient. He was passionate about giving photojournalists the tools needed to keep doing great and relevant work.
When pontificating about the critical value and ownership of your photographs, I always cite Dirck’s stunning find in 1998: Bill Clinton hugging Monica Lewinsky at a 1996 fundraiser.
“I have a theory,” Halstead wrote in “The Monica Lesson” on The Digital Journalist, “that every time the shutter captures a frame, that image is recorded at a very low threshold in the brain of the photographer.” Two years later, when the story broke, Dirck recognized Lewinsky. He hired a researcher, and four days and over 5,000 slides later, there was the picture, which became another Time magazine cover.
“I am not talking about Monica versus the President … who is lying and who is not …,” Dirck wrote, “I am talking about the photographers who record history and have an obligation to make those photographs available to future generations.” It’s a great lesson in keeping your archives in order.
Dirck donated his archive to the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas in 1995.
Photographer PF Bentley described Dirck on Facebook: “TIME’s Senior White House Photographer always dapper in his tailored blue blazer, pocket handkerchief, and Gucci shoes” was a digital evangelist in the 1990s.
“He tried to tell TIME editors and executives that they needed to shift from being a media company and not just magazine publishing with the web as an add-on,” Bentley wrote. “They thought it was a wacky idea and dismissed it with no merit. Major news organizations have now 25 years later branched out to being media companies to survive. … He was a visionary. Guess what … Dirck was right.”
Dirck’s kindness led to great successes. He shared his wealth of knowledge and passed along opportunities to young photographers.
Rick Smolan wrote on Facebook: “Few people know this, but in many ways, Dirck was actually the father of the DAY IN THE LIFE projects. … Dirck was not only responsible for getting me to Asia it was his introducing me to the concept of bartering my photography for hotels and flights that made the DITL Australia and all the subsequent books possible. … It's mind boggling when you think of all the ripple effects and all the friendships, marriages, babies, and the number of lives touched by Dirck's generous advice to a 26-year-old fledgling photographer all those years ago! Thank you Dirck ...... R.I P.”
The pictures and words pouring out on Instagram and Facebook are beautiful reflections and memories of those who broke ground and led the golden age of photojournalism.
David Burnett, a prolific photographer and writer, described Dirck’s confidence among influential people, his penchant for flying first class, and a style that went “beyond his shoes.”
“He always wore Gucci loafers and was usually the only person not talking about them,” Burnett wrote on Facebook.
“The outpouring of stories and goodwill was the kind of thing most of us never get to hear while we are alive, only afterward,” Burnett wrote. “But I’m going to believe that perhaps somehow, someway, Dirck was just getting ready for that next assignment, had relieved his feet from the Guccis, and was swirling a little snifter of cognac, and just quietly, in his own way, taking it all in, reminding himself one more time, of a life well-lived.”
Let this be a lesson for all of us. Tell those we love how much we care. And let them know how much valuable memories count and how their kindness ripples through a lifetime, making a difference in the world.
He is survived by his sister Anne MacPherson of Durham, New York; a nephew, Halstead York; and godchild, Byron Hume Kennerly of Los Angeles.
Dirck Halstead, Photojournalist Who Captured History, Dies at 85, in The New York Times.
Dirck’s work is represented by Getty Images.
The Dirck Halstead Photographic Archive consists of over 500,000 photographic images in various formats, including prints (color and black & white), mounted prints (color and black & white), laminated prints, contact sheets (color and black & white), transparencies (including 35mm slides), internegatives (4"x5" and 8"x10"), 35mm negatives, 120mm negatives, correspondence, printed materials, creative works, business records and artifacts. These images are largely in transparent format.
The photographic material covers Dirck’s work from the 1950s through 2001 and includes subject matter such as world events, topical news stories, famous personalities and the United States presidencies from Kennedy to George W. Bush. The personal papers include presidential trip itineraries, magazines (and magazine covers), and assignment materials related to his work with United Press International (UPI) and Time Magazine. The artifacts include press passes and awards.
Sue Morrow is editor of News Photographer magazine for the NPPA. She can be reached at [email protected].
About the Dirck Halstead's archive and how to contribute:
Memorial contributions may be made to the Briscoe Center Photography Collections to fund an internship in Dirck Halstead’s name at the Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin.
The Dirck Halstead Photographic Archive consists of over 500,000 photographic images in various formats, including prints (color and black & white), mounted prints (color and black & white), laminated prints, contact sheets (color and black & white), transparencies (including 35mm slides), internegatives (4″x5″ and 8″x10″), 35mm negatives, 120mm negatives, correspondence, printed materials, creative works, business records, and artifacts. These images are largely in transparent format.
The photographic material covers Halstead’s work from the 1950s through 2001 and includes subject matter such as world events, topical news stories, famous personalities, and the United States presidencies from Kennedy to Clinton. The personal papers include presidential trip itineraries, magazines (and magazine covers), and assignment materials related to his work with United Press International (UPI) and Time Magazine. The artifacts include press passes and awards.