Perpignan Saturday: David Douglas Duncan, Brenda Ann Kenneally, and a heated photoj debate

Saturday, the last official day of professional week at Visa pour l'Image, started out with a press conference by David Douglas Duncan, the grandfather of modern conflict photography. At 92 years old, Duncan dodders a bit, with a rough combination for a press conference: achingly slow speech with an unrelenting memory for every minutiae. Those who sat it out, though, were rewarded with moments of inspiring passion. While remembering a young soldier sitting in the unimaginable cold of one Christm

Saturday, the last official day of professional week at Visa pour l'Image, started out with a press conference by David Douglas Duncan, the grandfather of modern conflict photography. At 92 years old, Duncan dodders a bit, with a rough combination for a press conference: achingly slow speech with an unrelenting memory for every minutiae. Those who sat it out, though, were rewarded with moments of inspiring passion. While remembering a young soldier sitting in the unimaginable cold of one Christmas in Korea, Duncan had to stop as tears welled up in his eyes. "I'm getting choked up, and it happened 50 years ago. Can you imagine?" he said, going on to reveal the source of the story's pathos. Asked what he wanted for Christmas, the soldier replied simply, "Give me tomorrow." Obviously Duncan's award-winning images from the conflict came from a place of extreme sympathy. "I don't understand how doctors can go home at night and see this kind of tragedy and not be shattered as I am now," he said. Duncan also railed against censorship by "the creeps in Washington," which he called "criminal," and recognized that most of the work he'd done in Korea would simply be impossible in today's conflict zones. "I'd like to go to Iraq or Afghanistan and be told I can't photographed something," he said, with a touch of mischievousness and anger. "Who says? I'd say, you're talking to the oldest guy in the business you bastard, so shoot me." In his eyes it was unconscionable not to recognize the ultimate price paid by soldiers by publicizing images of their struggles and death. "To hell with it," he grumbled finally as he abruptly left the stage -- only to be pinned into a corner by a mob of admirers, all with flashes blazing. It was strange to see Duncan in a blaze of flash light, his arms raised, half in a celebrity's, "Yes, thank you" embrace and half in an eye-protecting squint, but I can't say I don't understand the admiration. (The image above, by Duncan, was one I mentioned from his exhibition as one of the best -- and most unsettling.)