What the Journal Brings Forth

I was leafing through one of my old journals recently, looking for notes about a friend of mine who died in November. The journal was from February 1992, when I was frequently driving to Oklahoma City to hang out with some fellow photographers, and occasionally pick up a few bucks making pictures for the Associated Press.

David Duke speaks at a press conference in early 1992. I think this image has a very old-fashioned news photo look to it.
David Duke speaks at a press conference in early 1992. I think this image has a very old-fashioned news photo look to it.

On Monday, February 24, 1992, I note in my journal, “David Duke presser, very weird.”

A “presser” is slang for a press conference.

I honestly had no idea I had photographed this guy. But curiosity got me to pull the negatives from that day, and sure enough, I had.

David Duke, for those who might have forgotten, is a “white supremacist, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, and former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.”

At the time I photographed him, he was apparently trying to clean up his image, but by the late 1990s, he had abandoned those efforts, and was again espousing neo-Nazi ideology. More recently, he was permanently suspended from Twitter in 2020 for “for violating its rules regarding hateful conduct.”

Another point I’d like to make about being a journalist is that despite characters like this having objectionable politics and beliefs, we can’t really pick and choose who to photograph and quote. That’s not how journalism works. Good journalists cover events and people starting from a blank page, and, if we’re doing it right, let those events and people reveal themselves.

A lawyer’s maxim is “res ipsa loquitur,” which means “the thing speaks for itself.”

So, yeah, wow. I photographed David Duke, which I had completely forgotten, but thanks to the journal, I preserved it. That’s the most important message I have for you today: consider writing in a journal of some kind. The story of your life is incredibly complicated, and if you don’t write it down, it’s too easy to forget those thousands of little things that add up to it all.

I also think it’s at least as important to record the negative things in your life as well as the positive, since we often learn and grow more from our mistakes.

David Duke looks up in this slightly tighter view. I have no recollection of the location or content of the press conference.
David Duke looks up in this slightly tighter view. I have no recollection of the location or content of the press conference.

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