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Margaret Whitlam Galleries

The Presidents from JFK to Obama An Australian Centrer for Photography Touring Exhibition

Barack Obama and Michelle

David Burnett


2012


Photograph

Venue
(View Map)
Date
11 Apr - 25 Jul 2014
Open

INTRODUCTION PANEL

Leading American photojournalist David Burnett is one of the very few photographers to have photographed all US Presidents since John F. Kennedy. In 1963, Burnett’s final year of high school, his mother took him to see Kennedy speak in downtown Salt Lake City. A chance moment and a borrowed camera led to a lifelong career.

From iconic statesmen such as JFK, to the downfall of Richard Nixon, and the significance of America’s election of Barack Obama, these moments of history have reverberated around the world. Spanning five decades, Burnett’s images are markers of time and provide a fascinating, up-close and unique perspective.

David Burnett (b. 1946) began working as a freelancer for Time, and later for Life magazine in the 1960s. He co-founded Contact Press Images in 1976 with Robert Pledge and has worked in over 70 countries. His many awards include the Robert Capa Gold Medal, multiple World Press Photo Awards and World Press Photo of the Year.

ROOMNOTES

David Burnett is one of the world’s leading photojournalists covering politics, sport, conflict and portraiture. He is one of the few photographers to have photographed all the American presidents since John F. Kennedy. The Presidents: from JFK to Obama, is the first time Burnett’s presidential images have been exhibited in Australia.

Born in 1946, Burnett grew up in Utah, in his opinion a conservative state with a population not always keen on the presidency despite respecting the office. It was after the election of JFK, a president that the new generation would embrace with hope and optimism, that Burnett took up photography, taking photographs for his high school annual. At the same time Burnett was bitten by the political bug, when he ran (but failed) to become high school President. In 1963, his final year at school, he went with his mother to catch a glimpse of JFK who was on an official visit to Salt Lake City. In a hotel lobby downtown, Burnett waited patiently. The revolving door spun, out walked the President and Burnett clicked his borrowed 35mm reflex camera several times. It was the beginning of a lifelong career photographing the presidents of the United States of America.

From candidates politicking on a chair in a kitchen in the 1970s, to the evolution of campaigning as an entertaining public relations show in the 1990s, to the tightly managed access of today in the age of social media, smartphones and the 24 hour news cycle, Burnett has witnessed the changing American political landscape. Burnett’s career has also traversed the various technology of the medium from his old Speed Graphic film camera, to modern digital, and retro plastic cameras. His images provide a fascinating, up-close and unique perspective.

Despite five decades on the campaign trail photographing American presidents David Burnett remains enthralled by the sense of history contained within the White House and the weight of responsibility the office holds. “Being in the company of Presidents remains a rarified place. You seldom have second chances. You need to be on top of your game. When that look, that gesture, that moment happens, there is nothing like that click of a camera to let you feel like you are entitled to exhale.”

This exhibition was originally presented at the Australian Centre for Photography in partnership with Reportage Festival. The exhibition is supported by Fuji Film and Pixel Perfect.

David Burnett (b. 1946, Salt Lake City, Utah) graduated from Colorado College with a B.A. in political science and began working as a freelancer for Time, and later for Life magazine in the 1960s. Burnett became the last photojournalist to cover the American war in Vietnam for Life. He co-founded Contact Press Images in 1976 with Robert Pledge and has worked in over 70 countries. Burnett has been named one of the “100 Most Important People in Photography” by American Photo magazine and his many awards include the Robert Capa Gold Medal, multiple World Press Photo Awards and World Press Photo of the Year.

Curated by UWS Art Curator, Monica McMahon. ( monica.mcmahon@uws.edu.au )