- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

In 2000, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Hume Kennerly worked on his life's most difficult assignment: a 366-day photo diary. He had to shoot at least one picture that pleased him (an important, limiting detail) every day of that year, whether he was relaxing at home in Santa Monica or covering the hectic and strange presidential campaign.
To whom was he responsible? David Hume Kennerly his "own worst critic."
"It was a whimsical idea that became obsessive," Mr. Kennerly, a longtime contributing editor for Newsweek, says of his "relentless pursuit of a good picture each day."
The result of his obsession is a black-and-white photo exhibit, "Photo du Jour: A Picture-a-Day Journey Through the First Year of the New Millennium," which opened Tuesday at the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building, and a book with the same title, published recently by the University of Texas Press.
The exhibit features 150 pictures; the book has 515 images. Both include pictures from the presidential campaign, trips to Shanghai and Paris and plenty of Americana a drive-through doughnut shop (shaped like a doughnut) in La Puente, Calif., and the Wigwam Motel (rentable Indian-look-alike concrete tents) along Route 66 in Holbrook, Ariz.
Mr. Kennerly says he was attempting to capture an America that is rapidly disappearing as Targets and Wal-Marts come to Main Street.
"We live in such a homogenized world," he says. "What I was trying to display was what America was 50 years ago."
Many of the photographs are people-less, portraying loneliness and desolation, themes that won Mr. Kennerly a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for his coverage of the Vietnam War.
Unlike the majority of the assignments Mr. Kennerly has undertaken in his 35-year career eight presidential campaigns, the Vietnam War and the Clinton impeachment, to name but a few this one had no theme or direction.
"There was no way I could shoot sisters or puppies or kittens every day for a whole year," he says. "Although that would probably have sold a million copies," he adds with a laugh.
Instead, he woke up each morning in one of the 38 states and seven countries he visited that year, with no idea what he was going to shoot that day.
"Around four or five o'clock, if I didn't have my picture yet, I would get a little anxious," he recalls.
The only common denominator in the photo diary was the camera and lens Mr. Kennerly used, a Mamiya 7 II and a 43 mm lens. Its 6-by-7-centimeter negative size is five times the size of normal negatives. The image quality was "sensational," he says.
Among the 150 images displayed, Mr. Kennerly has a few personal favorites:
On Nov. 8, all of the Bush clan, along with the Cheneys and campaign chairman Don Evans, are watching the election results on a television in the governor's mansion in Austin, Texas. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has a concerned look on his face, while the elder George Bush is off to the side on the phone with someone.
"It was a real cliffhanger," Mr. Kennerly says. "Just look at their faces."
On Dec. 19, President-elect George W. Bush visited then-President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office. Also in the picture is veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas. Mr. Clinton looks sure of himself; Mr. Bush looks uncomfortable.
"Bush came in, and it was his first appearance in the Oval Office since winning," Mr. Kennerly says. "He said to President Clinton, 'Thank you for having me in. You didn't really have to do that,' at which Miss Thomas quips, 'Yes, he did.'" She was referring to the long-standing tradition of outgoing presidents inviting presidents-elect to the White House.
On Dec. 20, the day after the White House visit, Mr. Kennerly went to Disneyland in search of a photo that might represent the kooky 2000 election.
He ended up with a close-up of the Mad Hatter.
"That picture sums up the election year," Mr. Kennerly says. "I was looking for Goofy, but then the Mad Hatter walked by. It's a very subjective commentary."
He says the Mad Hatter shot is one of the few premeditated photos in the exhibit.
Another section shows various images of Washington, a city Mr. Kennerly knows extremely well. He wanted to shoot a different city, creating images he hadn't considered or seen in the past.
On March 22, for example, "Taiwanese Singers" dressed in white sweat suits sang in front of the U.S. Capitol.
"Things are going on at the Capitol all the time, but we're not there to cover them," he says of the non-news event.
On Jan. 2, he shot "The U.S. Capitol behind bars," showing the building in the background with a barricade in the foreground. Barricades at that time were not very common, but the picture is an eerie foreshadowing of the tightened security to come more than a year later.
"It just makes me sick what's happened," Mr. Kennerly says. "Security people outnumber tourists three to one, it seems. It's not the same place anymore."
The University of Texas, the publisher of his book, is also the home of Mr. Kennerly's 1 million-plus picture archive, says Don Carleton, director of the Center for American History at the university's main campus in Austin.
"We're trying to preserve the records of photojournalism which hasn't been done before," Mr. Carleton says. "We read these pictures like text. It's a mirror with a memory."
The exhibit, which Mr. Kennerly suggests also could be called "a scrapbook of my wanderings," also includes two glass cases with credentials from several 2002 political campaigns, including Mr. Bush's and Mr. Gore's.
Also on display is his camera, of course.
After completing his assignment on Dec. 31, 2000, Mr. Kennerly didn't use the Mamiya for a very long time. He didn't pick it up for a year because the project had been "so anxiety-filled," he says.
He thinks the diary project made him a better photographer, forcing him to think outside the idea of an immediate, focused assignment, but he doesn't miss "Photo du Jour" at all.
"It's like running a marathon. It was a hard run, but I am really glad I ran it," he concludes.

WHAT: "Photo du Jour: A Picture-a-Day Journey Through the First Year of the New Millennium"
WHERE: Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building, 900 Jefferson Drive SW
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through Dec. 29 (closed Dec. 25)
TICKETS: Admission is free.
PHONE: 202/357-2700

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