Dick Swanson

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Dick L. Swanson
EducationUniversity of Illinois
Known forPhotojournalism
Spouse(s)Germaine (m. 1971)

Dick L. Swanson (born 1934) is an American photographer and a war photographer with numerous images published[1] in the United States.[2][3]


Dick Swanson was born in 1934 and was raised in Illinois. In his youth, he worked at newspapers owned by his uncle. He later became a staff photographer at the News-Gazette in Champaign, Illinois while at the University of Illinois. Life magazine first published one of his photos, a Miscellany called A Bubble that has Ears, in 1957.[4] Shortly after that, Swanson temporarily gave up photography to become a commercial pilot.[5] Following college, he worked for The Des Moines Register and the Davenport Democrat[6] and he later signed a contract with New York's Black Star.[3] While working for the Des Moines Register, he shot "Man Alone", a photograph of a firefighter on a ladder engulfed in flames, which was recognized by the 1963 Pulitzer jury as "good on-the-spot work".[7][8]

In 1966, Swanson went on assignment for Life to Vietnam, where he met his future wife Germaine; they married in 1971. For his work in Vietnam he has been recognized as amongst the best military photographers by the project "A Day in the Life of the United States Armed Forces."[9] Eventually Swanson became a White House photographer for Life until the magazine ended publication in 1972. Swanson stayed at the White House bureau and worked for such magazines as Fortune, People,[10] and Time.

In April 1975, Swanson returned to Vietnam to bring his wife's family to the United States during the fall of Saigon.[11][12][13][14] He took time off from photography in the late 1970s to help his wife open a Washington DC restaurant which was popular in 1979.[15]

Around 1980, Swanson began working for National Geographic, Newsweek and The Washington Post as a freelance photographer. Currently he uses Final Cut Pro for all his work and is a producer of films for the Video Action Fund.[2]


During Swanson's career he received awards from such companies as World Press and NPPA. His work was added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and he contributed to the Corcoran Gallery of Art's exhibition entitled "The Indelible Image" in 1986.[3] Some of his work is in a collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.[2] That collection contains over 3,000 photographs and negatives shot from 1959 - 1994.[16] His work is also in the LIFE Image Collection owned by Getty Images.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Sample of Images by Dick Swanson in the LIFE image collection". Getty Images. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Dick Swanson". Swanson Photography. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "Dick Swanson". The Eye of Photography (L’Oeil de la Photographie. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  4. ^ Swanson, Dick (December 2, 1957). "Miscellany - A Bubble that has Ears". LIFE. 43 (23): 168. ISSN 0024-3019.
  5. ^ Hunt, George P. (April 22, 1966). "Teag Gas - A problem for Photographers". LIFE. 60 (16): 3. ISSN 0024-3019.
  6. ^ "A Guide to the Dick L. Swanson Photographic Archive, 1959-1994". The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  7. ^ Swanson, Dick (1962). "Man Alone". POYi Archive, Item #4630 Originally published in the Des Moines Register & Tribune. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  8. ^ Fischer, Heinz Dietrich; Fischer, Erika J., eds. (2000). Press Photography Awards, 1942-1998. Walter de Gruyter. p. xxxvii. ISBN 9783598301841.
  9. ^ "25 of the best military photographers". A Day in the Life of the United States Armed Forces. Harper Collins. Archived from the original on January 10, 2009. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  10. ^ Durrell, Richard J. (November 29, 1976). "The Men and Women Behind the Cameras Are Vital to Our Continued Success". People. Archived from the original on September 15, 2014. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  11. ^ Associated Press. "Thousands of South Viets join Stream of Refugees". The Evening News. Newburgh, New York. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  12. ^ Clifford, Garry (May 19, 1975). "A Daring American Rescues His Wife's Family from Vietnam". 3 (19). Retrieved September 14, 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ Swanson, Dick (April 1999). "Last Exit from Saigon". The Digital Journalist. Archived from the original on October 21, 2016. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  14. ^ "One Man's Refugee Family: How Dick Swanson's Vietnamese Relatives Have Fared". People. 4 (26). December 29, 1975. Archived from the original on February 27, 2014. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  15. ^ Gamarekian, Barbara (February 24, 1979). "Where Eating, Eying People draws a crowd". NY Times News Service via The Day. New London, Connecticut. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  16. ^ "Photojournalism: Dick Swanson". The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved September 14, 2014.

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