Nixon announces visit to communist China

Dirck Halstead, UPI and John Dominis, LIFE, wait for Nixon's arrival at the Beijing Airport.

Dirck Halstead, UPI and John Dominis, LIFE, wait for Nixon’s arrival at the Beijing Airport.

And then the battle began.  Every news organization wanted to send a photo team on the biggest story of the year–the decade!  The Chinese limited the number of Americans who could enter the country.  When the smoke cleared only the wires and the magazines won and they sent their best photographers: Horst Faas and Bob Daugherty for the Associated Press, Frank Cancellare and Dirck Halstead for United Press International, Wally McNamee for Newsweek,and John Dominis for Time Inc.  John Dominis worked for LIFE and LIFE sort of “bigfooted” the TIME photo department.  These “stars,”accustomed to the support of others, had to remember old skills, which included developing their own film.

UPI photographer Dirck Halstead processing color in hotel bathroom in UPI's darkroom.

UPI photographer Dirck Halstead processing color in hotel bathroom in UPI’s darkroom.

Dirck Halstead give an excellent account of his historic and exhausting journey in his book MOMENTS IN TIME  (

  • It was just a walk in the park. Well, Almost.

    Obama 6 30 14It was a beautiful afternoon, bright sun, about 84 degrees, and LaFayette Park across the street from the White House is very pleasant at this time of the year.  The president was doing an event at the Department of Veterans Affairs so a walk back to the White House was a natural.  Great!  First, let’s clear all of the people out of the park, better make that all the way to 17th Street.  Next, stop the traffic on H Street, well, that had to be for the Presidential Limo and the tent erected over it. They would need all of H Street for the motorcade that was almost  as long as the walk from the White House to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Bring on security and the White House in town traveling pool and the walk Obama 6 30 14begins. The President, Vice President, and his pick to lead the Department of Veterans’ Affairs walking and talking–it almost looked like a “Photo opp”.

    Obama 6 20 14 Oh, and if you are the president, you are the one who gets to take off his suit coat and hold the coffee cup.


  • Photographer Howard Baker 1925-2014

    Holding a small Leica in his hand and the large Leicaflex around his neck, Howard Baker carrys on his political duties at the Republican Convention in Kansas, City in August 1976 Photograph by Dennis Brack

    Holding a small Leica in his hand and the large Leicaflex around his neck, Howard Baker carrys on his political duties at the Republican Convention in Kansas, City in August 1976
    Photograph by Dennis Brack

    Most Americans remember Howard Baker as a U.S. senator, Senate majority leader and White House Chief of Staff, but the photographers remember Baker as a darned good photographer.  Actually some of us thought that he would have much rather  been on our side of the cameras instead of being our subject.  Senator Howard BakerHe loved his Leicaflex which was much to heavy, (and too expensive), for news work.  He processed color film in his well equipped darkroom and had mastered a technique of eliminating green, (our nemesis at that time), by adjusting development temperature.


    Baker was a wonderful presidential candidate.

    Howard Baker campaigning for President is New Hampshire in November 1979 Photograph by Dennis Brack

    Howard Baker campaigning for President is New Hampshire in November 1979
    Photograph by Dennis Brack

    Ideal for his friends the photographers.  I did have one problem.  He had the habit of handing his Leicaflex to me to take a few pictures of him on the campaign trail.   Of course, that meant that I wasn’t able to take pictures with my cameras for TIME.  That was just fine for a good friend.

  • Great News Photographers–minus One

    If you have been around for some time and follow news photography above is a gathering of some of the top photographers of the last century–all except the one on the far right, that’s me.

    The photograph was made in Plains, Georgia during  the summer that Jimmy Carter was running for president.

    Photo greatsOn the left is Joe Holloway,first UPI and later  AP.  Holloway made classic photographs of the Vietnam War and the Civl Rights Movement. Next to Holloway is Frank Cancellare of UPI. Cancellare had a lifetime of page one photographs from the depression to the Burma Road in WWII to the photograph of President Truman holding the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, “Dewey Defeats Truman”  After Cancellare, is Chick Harrity,AP,and U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT. George Tames ,THE NEW YORK TIMES, is next.  Tames made the iconic photograph of JFK titled “The Loneliest Job in the World”,but there were thousands of  prize-winning  photographs in his portfolio.  Joe Marquette is the thin man next to Tames.  At that time Marquette was working for UPI, but he went on to an important career with the AP in Washington.


  • “I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.” – Mahatma Gandhi -

    A statue of Gandhi at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town South Africa. photograph by Dennis Brack

    A statue of Gandhi at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town South Africa. photograph by Dennis Brack



    Oh, well,  Nobody’s Perfect

    “Everybody makes mistakes… Everybody has those days”.- another quote from a great philosopher  –HANNAH MONTANA

  • A Great Day for the Beach! Pebble Beach

    Pebble Beach 2If you are looking for a wonderful golf course and the Pacific Ocean, you are definitely on the wrong website.  This Pebble Beach is on the North Lawn of the White House and no one, with the exception of a few network producers, finds it attractive.  There are men and women who spend their day at this beach and on a summer day they might enjoy the sun with the breeze from a large Costco fan.  These people are on the crews that have been assigned to broadcast White House correspondent’s “stand-ups”.  These stand-ups are constant.  Ed Henry of Fox News makes the short walk from the Fox News cubical in the pressroom basement to give updates almost hourly.  When the world is in crisis mode, this space is buzzing with “authoritative news”–or lack there of.

    It started with a camera crew on sticks (a tripod), filming  their correspondent with the North Portico of the White House as a background.  Today it is the size of a small town. There was no doubt that the space was looking like a gypsy camp.  First Lady Laura Bush thought that something ought to be done and the Department of Interior went to work.  (remember the White House is a national park).  After the re-do the camera crews found that they were to stand on large round pebbles–hence the name Pebble Beach.  Recently there was  yet another  re-do.  The pebbles were replaced  by concrete and some of the newer crews call the area Stoneheng.  Around it was a hedge of small bushes–mean bushes with thorns like a rose bush, but nastier.  You do not want to take short cut through those bushes.  They will hurt you.

    For many years television viewers saw the correspondent in the foreground with the entire White House and some of the North Lawn as a background.  Recently, the networks are shooting the stand ups with longer lenses so the White House is much larger  and right over the corespondent’s shoulder.  To achieve this look the camera has to be 15 to 20 feet back from the correspondent, so the white canvas tents are long and narrow.

    pebble beachWhile president and first ladies might not like sight of this little city, I can’t help but think that it’s a good thing to have it close to the center of power.  It reminds our leaders that the media–the people–are watching and interested in the decisions that they are about to make.

  • Larry Downing, Reuters has visited fifty states while covering presidents

    Down AFOneCONGRATULATIONS TO LARRY DOWNING!. The stop in North Dakota marked the 50th state Reuters photographer
    Larry Downing has visited covering a president. He started with Jimmy
    Carter 37 years ago and has covered every president since.  Larry came to Washington, DC. as a photographer for United Press International.  NEWSWEEK recognized his talent and expertise as a newsphotographer and put  Larry on their staff.   After NEWSWEEK, Larry freelanced but really wanted to be a staff wire service photographer.  He was hired by Reuters–the best hire that they could have made.  There is a chapter on Larry Downing in the book, PRESIDENTIAL PICTURE STORIES.

  • Reagan at the Berlin Wall June 12,1987

    President Ronald Reagan speaks at the Berlin Wall on July 12, 1987

    President Ronald Reagan speaks at the Berlin Wall on July 12, 1987 Photo by Dennis Brack

    On June 11th, 1987 the TIME photo team, Dirck Halstead, Diana Walker, Rudi Frey, and Dennis Brack were at the end of coverage of the Venice Economic Summit.  Economic Summits were major stories at that time.  The private table at Harry’s Bar, the high powered Chris-craft boats that whisked the photo team through the Venice canals were about to end   It was known that President Reagan’s  speech in Berlin was going to be an important story, so I went ahead of the press on commercial flights to Frankfort and on to Berlin.  I met with the Reagan advanceman and he showed the spots on the center stand that were reserved for the White House Press.  They were on the second level, but they would almost duplicate the pictures that Dirck Halstead would make from the Air Force One pool which would come into the buffer zone right in front on the ground.  We needed to see the Brandenburg Gate, so I went as far up on the stand as I could get.  The German press was supposed to have that area, but the  advanceman changed the signs around and all was cool–sort of.  The Reagan advance team headed by Steve Studdert was the best.  TIME used this view large in the next issue.

    The Quadriga in 2014. photo by Dennis Brack

    The Quadriga in 2014. photo by Dennis Brack

    The overall picture in TIME shows the back of the wall because that was the American section at that time.  Today the Wall is no more and everyone can see the front of the  Brandenburg Gate and on the top, the Quadriga, a four-horsed chariot driven by Victoria, the winged goddess of victory.

    The Berlin Wall 2014,photo by Dennis Brack

    The Berlin Wall 2014,photo by Dennis Brack

  • Marvin Purbaugh, NBC Electrician

    Marvin Purbaugh in Kennebunkport, Maine with Bush 41

    Marvin Purbaugh in Kennebunkport, Maine with Bush 41

    When covering the White House you work with group of roughly 40 people that you see almost everyday.  When the president travels you see  them constantly, sometimes for 14 or more hours a day, and you get to know just about everything there is to know about  your work-friends.  That is  you get to know everything about their professional lives.  You tend to forget that each person that you spend all this time with actually have real lives.

    It was that way with Marvin Purbaugh.  When still photographers learned that Marvin was lighting the event, they knew they were in good hands.    Lighting was a major concern when we were shooting color film because the tungsten films were of poor quality and were extremely unforgiving.  Of course, Marvin’s primary concern was for NBC or perhaps the television pool, but many a magazine cover was due to Marvin’s skills.

    Most of us knew that Marvin was a pro, a great traveling companion, and someone who would help you out if he could, but we only knew professional side of Marvin’s life.

    Today I was reminded that all of us covering the White House have real lives. I looked across the aisle and saw Marvin’s wife, sons, daughters and grandchildren. Rev. Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, the Rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception told us about the times that Marvin supervised the lighting of the Shrine on Papal visits.  Marvin created the lighting for all of the Shrine and Monsignor Rossi recalled times when he would find Marvin sitting in various pews of the Shrine or Crypt Church. He would ask Marvin about why he was at that particular spot.  Marvin would reply that he was thinking about a way to make the light just a little more perfect.

    Thank you Marvin

  • Pigeons used to carry news photographer’s film on D Day

    Normandy invasion“I let the camera absorb all the disaster or the sadness of an event. It protects me from the event.”—Marty Lederhandler, Associated Press

    Marty Lederhandler was a photographer for the Associated Press for sixty-six years. He photographed stories from the Hindenburg crash to the Twin Towers burning on 9/11. Marty Lederhandler’s best war story is about wading ashore at Utah Beach on “D Day” and getting his film back to London. The newspaper editors wanted to get the pictures from the Normandy Invasion back across the channel to London about the same time the print stories on the invasion would be going over the Associated Press wire.

    Marty tells the story. “ Someone decided that pigeons would be the best way to get the pictures back quickly. The pigeons could carry film back across the channel. And so the English pigeon fanciers used to race the pigeons across the channel in peacetime from Calais to Dover so they donated them to the Army for the photog- raphers who were going on “D Day.” But now they figured out that a pigeon could not carry a full thirty-six exposure roll of film. It was too heavy, so they build this little elastic harness with an aluminum tube that the pigeon carried, but it could carry only a ten-exposure roll. And all the photographers who were going in on D Day morning were given these two pigeons and I was given two pigeons in South Hampton on June second. The invasion was supposed to be June fifth so because of the bad weather we were delayed a day. We went in on June sixth and that means the pigeons were cooped up for four days. They didn’t tell us that a pigeon would not fly after three days unless he is exercised. They didn’t tell me that. So on the forth day, on going to the French shore I shot pictures with my Leica camera very quickly and put the film in the capsule with the caption paper with my name and unit and where I was. And I threw him up in the air. Of course he wasn’t exercised so he came right down and I threw something at him so he went inland. On the beach we did the same thing. I shot ten pictures very quickly on the beach as we landed and threw the second pigeon up in the air and he sort of scooted off into the brush someplace. Three weeks later we captured a German command post near Cherbourg and I’m kicking around the command post and I picked up a German newspaper, a hometown newspaper of one of the German soldiers, and I looked and on the front page was my picture. They captured the pigeon and used them as adverse propaganda and saying these pictures showing the Americans being destroyed on the beaches of France and came from pigeons which fell exhausted into propaganda and saying these pictures showing the Americans being destroyed on the beaches of France and came from pigeons which fell exhausted into our hands and they gave me a byline. They spelled my name right.”

    sources: “Lenses Shield 9-11,” Associated press photographers discuss how they photograph history, Allen G. Breed.

    The Living American Master Photographers Project. www.