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Legendary Photos: The Stories Behind 5 of David Hume Kennerly’s Iconic Images

Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist discusses his classic shots
Photo of Joe Biden by David Hume Kennerly
© Center for Creative Photography/University of Arizona


This picture of Joe Biden was made February 9, 2020, at a town hall meeting in Hampton, New Hampshire, as he campaigned for president. In this frame, the former Vice President was talking about his son Beau who recently died. The hurt he was feeling can be seen here. This was not an act; the pain was palpable.

In 1972 when he was just 29, Biden became the sixth-youngest person ever elected to the U.S. Senate. It was a happy time in his life, but that joy was short lived. A few weeks after his election Biden’s wife Neilia and their one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed when a truck hit their car. His young boys Beau and Hunter, who were also in the car were hurt but survived the accident. In 2015, Biden’s son Beau died of brain cancer. As a father of three sons, I can’t imagine his anguish.

When Biden spoke via video at the funeral of George Floyd in Houston, his message was straight from his heart and personal experience. He opened by saying, “To George’s family and friends, Jill and I know that deep hole in your hearts when you bury a piece of your soul in this earth. As I said to you privately, we know. We know you will never feel the same again. For most people, the numbness you feel now will slowly turn day after day, season after season into purpose through the memory of the one they lost. But for you that day has come before you can fully grieve. And unlike most, you must grieve in public. It is a burden. A burden that is now your purpose to change the world for the better in the name of George Floyd.”

Looking at this picture of him you know he meant what he was saying, and it transcended politics. Photography can reveal a bit of someone’s soul. I believe this portrait is one of those moments and an accurate reflection of what I saw, heard, and felt in the room.

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