It’s a virtual “Who’s Who” of the most significant icons of photography of the past 50 years.
On Nov. 19, 12 photographers with strong Kansas ties becam the inaugural class of the newly minted Kansas Photojournalism Hall of Fame during a special event in Topeka.
The class included Pulitzer Prize winners, National Geographic staffers, a former chief photographer for two presidents and others who have made history through still photography.
Those inducted included Rich Clarkson, Carl Davaz, Jeff Jacobsen, Chris Johns, Brian Lanker, Sandra Milburn, Gordon Parks, Jim Richardson, Charlie Riedel, Gary Settle, Bill Snead and Pete Souza.
• Rich Clarkson
Clarkson is described as “the most important voice, mentor and leader that photojournalism has known,” says Tom Harden, the former director of photography at the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Clarkson is one of four founders of the National Press Photographers Foundation, established in 1975. He is also a National Press Photographers Association past president.
For 25 years, he served as the director of photography at The Topeka Capital-Journal. He also led the photo and art department at The Denver Post as Assistant Managing Editor/Graphics and was The National Geographic Magazine’s Director of Photography in the 1980s.
In addition, Clarkson was for decades a contract photographer for Sports Illustrated Magazine. He has photographed 59 Final Four Basketball tournaments photographing for the NCAA and Sports Illustrated Magazine. More than 30 Sports Illustrated covers have displayed his photographs – the first in 1964. He also covered six Olympics.
He has received numerous awards, including the National Press Photographers Association’s Sprague Award, the highest honor the organization bestows. In addition, at the University of Kansas, his alma mater, Clarkson received distinguished recognitions, including the William Allen White Medal and the Fred Ellsworth Award, the highest Alumni recognition.
He is now retired from the publishing and photography company, Clarkson Creative, headquartered in downtown Denver.
Almost 25 years ago, he founded the very successful Summit Series of Workshops that continues to feature some of photojournalism’s most successful photographers and visual artists on the faculties.
The Lawrence, Kan. native now lives in Denver. Clarkson turned 90 in August.
• Carl Davaz
Growing up as an Army brat in Kansas half a century ago, Davaz shot photos for the Leavenworth High School newspaper and co-edited the yearbook. As he began to grasp what it meant to be a photojournalist, his urge to make “take me there” photos and share them with readers took hold.
That aspiration accelerated once he reached the University of Kansas, where he was a photo intern at the Leavenworth Times, Indiana’s Evansville Press, and the Topeka Capital-Journal. In 1974 he became the only KU student ever to win the William Randolph Hearst Collegiate Photojournalism Competition.
His Topeka internship led to a coveted position on Rich Clarkson’s nationally recognized Capital-Journal staff, where skilled young photojournalists collaborated and competed to satisfy their mentor and make pictures that captivated and motivated their audience. The challenge created in Davaz and his colleagues a mutual work ethic, a commitment to their craft and a lifelong camaraderie.
In 1979, Davaz left Topeka to become the director of photography at the Missoulian, where 44,000 square miles of rugged western Montana made up the circulation area. Forging partnerships across the newsroom, he stressed the importance of words-and-pictures collaborations.
In 1982, sitting on a rock high in the Mission Mountains, Davaz and a reporter friend outlined a project to visit each of Montana’s 15 congressionally designated wilderness areas and explore increasingly contentious issues around wildlife, the role of outfitters and guides, wilderness use and abuse, fire management and mineral exploration. Over 15 months and 150 days and nights in the field, Davaz and reporters Steve Woodruff and Don Schwennesen produced a bounty of powerful newspaper journalism and a beautiful and compelling book, “Montana Wilderness: Discovering the Heritage.”
In 1986, Davaz left Missoula for Eugene, Oregon, and The Register-Guard to become the family-owned newspaper’s director of graphics. He served there for three decades.
• Jeff Jacobsen
Jacobsen has photographed practically every big event the sports world has to offer during a professional career that spans over 53 years. Starting at The Topeka Capital-Journal as an 18-year-old in 1969, Jacobsen learned from famed photographer Rich Clarkson. He shared photo duties with the remarkable, award-winning photographers that made the paper renowned for its photographic excellence.
Over the next several decades, Jacobsen developed his style of visual storytelling that has been called “the point where peak action, intense emotion and impeccable journalism cross paths.”
Jacobsen worked for the Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix, Arizona, from 1979-1983, covering a wide variety of sports in the Valley of the Sun and throughout the country.
Jacobsen returned to the Capital-Journal in 1983. He rose to the managing editor of photography position with a run of national acclaim for photography usage. His work has appeared in national and regional magazines throughout his career.
In 1997, Jacobsen began work for Kansas Athletics and became KU’s first full-time photographer. He had a front-row seat photographing more high-profile sporting events in a single year than most people attend in their lifetimes. The 256-page coffee table book, “Tribute to Crimson & the Blue,” published in July 2019, highlights his accomplishments at KU.
After retiring from Kansas Athletics in June 2020, Jacobsen began work on a long-term project on the people and events that make sports an integral part of the state of Kansas. Work on “The Heart & Soul of Kansas Sports” is ongoing as he travels to the 105 counties of Kansas.
Jacobsen was born in Lincoln, Neb. in April 1951. He moved to Kansas in 1954, graduated from Topeka High School in 1969 and Washburn University in December 1976.
Jacobsen was named the 2013 Alumni Fellow for the College of Arts and Science at Washburn University. He was inducted into the Shawnee County Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019 for his work with the Kansas City Royals, including their 1985 World Championship.
Jacobsen’s wife Laura is an academic advisor in the Kansas Athletics Department for Swimming & Diving and Rowing. The couple has two married daughters and two grandchildren.
• Chris Johns
When Johns loaded all his belongs into a rusty 1962 Volkswagen Beetle and headed to Kansas, he had no idea that receiving a photography internship at the Topeka Capital-Journal would have such a profound impact on his life.
For a young inexperienced photographer who grew in a small town in Oregon, the opportunity to work with an incredibly talented staff and demanding boss, Rich Clarkson, became the foundation of his career.
Four years after being hired, Johns was named 1979 Newspaper Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers’ Association. That same year, he took a leave of absence from the Capital-Journal and did his first assignment for National Geographic magazine. In 1980, Johns went to work for Gary Settle, a Topeka alum, as a staff photographer for the Seattle Times.
Johns currently teaches journalism at Oregon State University (his alma mater) and the University of Montana. He and Elizabeth, his wife, moved to Missoula, Mont. in 2017 as he led the National Geographic Society’s Beyond Yellowstone Program – an initiative that promoted wildlife connectivity across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Prior to that, he served as chief content officer, overseeing the expression of National Geographic’s editorial content across multiple media platforms.
He was the ninth Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic magazine from January 2005 to April 2014. During his editorship Johns’ focus on excellence in photography, cartography and reporting was recognized with 23 National Magazine Awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors. In 2008 Johns was named Magazine Editor of the Year and in 2011 National Geographic was named Magazine of the Year.
Born in southern Oregon’s Rogue River Valley, Johns has a long interest in wildlife, conservation, indigenous cultures and ranching. When he was a National Geographic staff photographer, much of his work focused on conversation issues in North America and Africa – particularly humankind co-existing with apex predators. In addition to his magazine assignments, Johns’ books include “Wild at Heart: Man and Beast in Southern Africa” (Forward by Nelson Mandela, 2002), “Valley of Life: Africa’s Great Rift” (Forward by Patrick Hemingway, 1991), “Hawaii’s Hidden Treasures” (1993) and “Face to Face With Cheetahs” (a children’s book, 2008).
Johns was awarded an honorary doctorate from Indiana University in 2010. He studied photojournalism at the University of Minnesota and holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism with a minor in agriculture from Oregon State University.
• Brian Lanker
Lanker made his mark on the world of photojournalism rather early in his career.
As a photographer at the Topeka Capital-Journal, Brian not only received the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for his picture page on natural childbirth but was twice named Newspaper Photographer of the Year.
Later in his career his work at LIFE Magazine and Sports Illustrated would also receive international recognition and acclaim.
He is perhaps most known for his best-selling book and exhibition titled, “I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.” Its debut at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. set attendance records for the (then) 111-year old museum.
Personally, however, Brian considered his greatest honor being selected and featured, along with W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Eliot Porter, in “Images of Man,” an audio-visual educational program.
Brian directed his first documentary film, “They Drew Fire: Combat Artists of WWII,” a highly acclaimed PBS primetime program, in 1998.
His book, “Shall We Dance,” was the result of Brian’s travels across America to document the variety of styles of dance. From tap to tango, salsa to swing, his photos captured the beauty of dance, and the dancers themselves. Maya Angelou wrote the forward to the book
Brian passed away in 2011 at 63 years old.
• Sandra Milburn
Sandra J. Milburn is a photojournalist who worked full-time at the Hutchinson News for 32 years, starting there right out of college, advancing to photo editor, and recently writing stories to accompany her photos.
Milburn arrived as a summer intern at the News in 1988 while attending the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism. She graduated the following year. She was hired to replace photojournalist Greg Peters in September 1989.
She was promoted to photo editor in 1995 and became the only photojournalist on staff at the newspaper starting in April 2019. In August 2022, she was laid off by Gannett as part of a round of nationwide cuts.
Milburn has won many other photography awards through the years, in the Harris Group, Kansas Press Association and Associated Press contests.
Two career highlights were earning 2007 AP Photo of the Year for her aerial photo of the damage caused by an EF-5 tornado that struck the town of Greensburg, Kan., and having a photo displayed over two pages in Life magazine when a tornado struck the town of Willowbrook, northwest of Hutchinson, in 1991.
Her thoughts about photography began as a 7-year-old girl when she told her mother she wanted to be a photographer, who responded “well, they don’t make a lot of money.”
Milburn went to Colby Community College for an equine degree but took a class in photography as an elective and became enamored with it and the darkroom.
She loved working for a small newspaper, making a difference for the readers by photographing their children at school events, providing sports images that they cut out, or being on the spot at a wildfire or after a tornado to help record history, and she relished being called the “photo lady” by school children who remember seeing her take their photos.
She loved that she was able to share the stories of the people of Kansas from light-hearted to devastating events in people’s lives.
Milburn and her husband, Bruce, have been married for 26 years and they have two children, a son Jacob who is married to Grace, and a daughter Mikayla, 17.
• Gordon Parks
Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kan. in 1912 to Sarah and Andrew Jackson Parks. The youngest of 15 children, he attended local schools and left Fort Scott at 16 after his mother died.
He bought his first camera at a pawnshop and found that he had talent as a photographer. He chose his camera as his weapon against all the things he disliked in America – racism, poverty and discrimination.
He moved to Chicago in 1940, where he began a portrait business and specialized in photographs of society women. After receiving the first fellowship in photography from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation in 1941, Parks chose to work with Roy Stryker at the Farm Security Administration in Washington, D.C. This was a government agency established to call attention to the plight of the needy during the depression. It was at the FSA that Gordon took his first professional photograph, “American Gothic.”
This memorable photograph of charwoman Ella Watson standing before the American flag holding a mop and broom became his signature image.
His talents also led him to filmmaking, writing, music and poetry. He was the first African-American to direct a film for a major studio, Warner Brothers. Based on his biographical novel, “The Learning Tree,” Parks penned the screenplay and composed the musical score, along with producing and directing the film. That, his first full length film, was shot in Fort Scott, and is based on his childhood there. More films were to follow, including “Shaft” and “Leadbelly.”
Also to his credit is a piano concerto, a symphony for orchestra, a ballet honoring Martin Luther King and 23 books. He received the National Medal of Arts from President Reagan in 1988.
He received over 50 honorary doctorates in his lifetime – a testament to living a life of overcoming barriers and achieving outstanding success both artistically and professionally.
Parks died in 2006, and is buried in Fort Scott’s Evergreen Cemetery. Through collected works, displays, and exhibits at the Gordon Parks Museum in Fort Scott, the creative spirit of Gordon Parks continues to inspire generations to come
• Jim Richardson
Richardson is a photographer of global issues and landscapes for National Geographic Magazine as well as a documentarian recognized for his explorations of life in rural places.
During his 30-year career with National Geographic he has focused on the critical environmental resources issues water, food and agriculture. His coverage of cultures has focused on the Celtic world with special attention to Scotland and its remote islands. His travel photography for National Geographic Traveler (where he is a contributing editor) and National Geographic Expeditions has taken him around the world many times and from pole to pole. His documentary photography has centered on the American Great Plains and includes his extended coverage of small town life in his native Kansas, his noted devotion to the Tallgrass prairie, and his defense of dark skies and the perils of light pollution.
In addition to photography for the magazine, Richardson represents the National Geographic Society in keynote presentations, media appearances, cultural enrichment lectures for travel group and in workshops. His teaching venues include the Santa Fe Workshops, Photography at the Summit (with his longtime mentor Rich Clarkson), and the National Geographic Traveler Seminars (of which he was a founder.)
In Kansas, Richardson is perhaps best known for proposing and photographing a story on Kansas’ Tallgrass prairie for the magazine’s April 2007 issue. He was the 2010 Governor’s Artist of the Year and 2009 Kansan of the Year by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas.
He has a 30-plus-year photographic relationship with the people of Cuba, Kansas, population 220. This unusual body of work has been excerpted in National Geographic, LIFE and many other publications worldwide.
Richardson began documenting rural Kansas life as a photographer for the Topeka Capital-Journal in 1970. His first project was published in 1979 as the book, “High School USA.” This three-year photographic examination of adolescence in Rossville, Kan., is considered a photo documentary classic.
His book “The Colorado: A River at Risk,” published in 1992, has been recognized widely for its contribution to awareness of water issues in the American West.
Richardson is a spokesman for the power of deep research in photography as well as for the value of life and lessons from remote places. His work has been profiled by ABC News Nightline in a behind-the-scenes production about the National Geographic editorial process in the field and at magazine headquarters in Washington, D.C.
He came to photography as a boyhood hobby which began on his parents’ wheat and dairy farm near Belleville in north-central Kansas. Richardson credits his father, a farmer and trucker driver who was also an enthusiastic amateur photographer for his early interest in photography. His father purchased cameras at pawn shops along his trucking route. His mother, a nurses’ aide and manager of the family dairy, allowed her kitchen to be used after supper as a darkroom.
Richardson and his wife Kathy returned to their native state in 1997 after almost 20 years in Denver. They live in Lindsborg, where they operate Small World Gallery on the town’s Main Street.
• Charlie Riedel
Riedel has been a photojournalist in Kansas for more than 40 years, with his first photos published in his high school newspaper.
He has a degree in communications from Fort Hays State University where he worked on school publications. After graduating, Riedel worked briefly at the Salina Journal before returning to his hometown to spend the next 17 years as photo editor at the Hays Daily News. At Hays, Riedel won numerous regional and national awards with his work documenting small town life.
In 2000, Riedel joined the Associated Press as a staff photographer. Based in Kansas City, Riedel primarily covers news and sporting events in Kansas and Missouri. He has also covered national stories for the AP including hurricanes, floods, presidential elections, wildfires, post 9/11 cleanup at the World Trade Center, protests in Ferguson, Mo. and the Gulf oil spill.
Riedel has covered numerous national and international sporting events, having photographed seven Olympic games.
He regularly covers Super Bowls, Masters golf tournaments, Kentucky Derbys, spring training baseball and Major League Baseball playoff and World Series games as well as many other events.
• Gary Settle
Settle was born in Walnut, Kan. in 1937, delivered by his grandfather, a country doctor.
His father, a CPA in Hutchinson and a serious and inventive amateur photographer, got Settle interested in taking pictures and taught him the basics of developing film and making prints.
He took pictures for his high school paper and yearbook, and his father connected him with his first part-time job, with fellow Rotarian Fred Wulfekuhler, who was Sunday editor and photographer for the Hutchinson News-Herald.
After four and a half years as darkroom boy/photographer at the newspaper, Gary, then a student at Kansas State College, was hired by Rich Clarkson at the Topeka Capital-Journal in 1958 to become the first summer photo intern. He was invited back the next summer. He met his wife Patti there.
In early 1966, he followed Bill Snead, a fellow native Kansan, to the Wilmington (Del.) News-Journal. But in November that year, Chuck Scott enticed Gary with a job offer at the Chicago Daily News, saying, “We’ll show those jokers at the Tribune how to do photojournalism,” a pledge that soon came true.
For the next three years, the Newspaper Photographer of the Year award went to Chuck Scott’s photographers, unprecedented for any of the nearly 100 photographers at Chicago’s four newspapers.
For Settle’s work in 1967, he was named 1968 Newspaper Photographer of the Year.
In the spring of 1969, he went to work for the New York Times out of its Chicago bureau. By July, he was the Times’ only staff photographer west of the East Coast, with a beat that took him to 30 or 40 states. One of his first assignments was to Houston for the return of the Apollo 11 astronauts.
In 1970, Settle was again named Photographer of the Year. He was elected president of National Press Photographers Association in 1977. A year later, he accepted a new challenge, at the Seattle Times, where he became responsible for the photography and art departments and the overall design of the news sections of the newspaper. He retired in 1999. Patti began flourishing as an artist with a local following in her own right until cancer took her in 2012.
He was on the faculty of the Missouri Photo Workshop nine times, over a span of 21 years.
Settle lives in Kingston, Wash., with his wife, Janice, and their dog and cat. His three sons and their wives and six grandchildren all live in the state of Washington.
• Bill Snead
Snead is one of those guys who proved that you CAN go home again.
In 1954, at 17, he began his career in journalism as a darkroom boy at the Lawrence Journal-World.
His boss was Rich Clarkson, five years his senior. After two or three years, Clarkson was developing bigger plans for his vision of photojournalism, which he presented to the publisher of the Topeka Capital-Journal, who signed on. Clarkson moved to the state capital and hired Snead to join him there.
“My good fortune began when I was hired by the Journal-World’s photo-boss-from-Hell, Rich Clarkson,” Bill wrote on his Web page years later. “I worked for him nine years in Lawrence and Topeka. Good enough was not in his vocabulary. His emotional kicks in the (butt) gave me a head start in a trade I care for as much today as I did a hundred years ago.”
The Topeka Capital-Journal was beginning to gain a reputation as one of the ten best picture-producing newspapers in the country.
Snead left Kansas in 1964 to become director of photography at the Wilmington (Del.) News-Journal. The next year he was sent to Vietnam for a brief stint covering Delaware troops, an introduction to war and death that served him well.
For three years, he was NPPA’s northeast regional photographer of the year. But he wanted to do more.
Bill returned to Vietnam in 1968, this time for United Press International as its Saigon bureau chief. He got there shortly before the Tet offensive. Believing that readers didn’t want to see just photos of burning villages and the destruction of war, he balanced those with images of everyday life in a war zone.
UPI brought him back to the U.S. as photo editor in their Chicago office. He covered Chicago’s massive ticker tape parade welcoming the Apollo 11 astronauts’ return to earth.
After a short stint as a picture editor at National Geographic, he landed at The Washington Post in 1972, where he began a 21-year stay.
The following year, Bill won the White House News Photographers’ top award, Newspaper Photographer of the Year. He was also a runner-up for that year’s Pulitzer Prize for news photography.
In 1993 he returned to his hometown newspaper, the Lawrence Journal-World, where he started as a teenager 39 years earlier. Snead died in 2016.
• Pete Souza
Souza is a best-selling author, speaker and freelance photographer based in Madison, Wis.
For all eight years of the Obama administration, Souza was the Chief Official White House Photographer and the director of the White House photo office.
His book, “Obama: An Intimate Portrait,” was published in 2017, and debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It is one of the best-selling photography books of all time.
His 2018 book, “Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents,” also debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in October 2018. Shade is a portrait in presidential contrasts, telling the tale of the Obama and Trump administrations through a series of visual juxtapositions.
Souza’s most recent book, “The West Wing and Beyond: What I Saw Inside the Presidency,” was published this month.
Based on his best-selling books, Souza became the subject of a documentary film in November 2020, “The Way I See It.” Directed by Dawn Porter and produced by Porter, Laura Dern, Evan Hayes and Jayme Lemons, the film takes an unprecedented look behind the scenes of two of the most iconic presidents in history, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, as seen through Souza’s eyes and camera.
As Official White House Photographer for both these presidents, Souza was an eyewitness to the unique and tremendous responsibilities of being the most powerful man in the world. The film also reveals how Souza transformed from a respected White House photographer and photojournalist to a searing commentator on the importance of having someone with empathy and dignity in the office of the presidency.
Souza started his career working for two newspapers in Kansas, the Hutchinson News and Chanute Tribune.
From there, he worked as a staff photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times; as Official Photographer for President Reagan; a freelancer for National Geographic and other publications; the national photographer for the Chicago Tribune based in their Washington bureau; and an assistant professor of photojournalism at Ohio University; before becoming Chief Official White House Photographer for President Obama in 2009.
In addition to the national political scene, Souza has covered stories around the world. After 9/11, he was among the first journalists to cover the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, after crossing the Hindu Kush mountains by horseback in three feet of snow. Also while at the Tribune, Souza was part of the staff awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for explanatory reporting on the airline industry.
He received his master’s degree from Kansas State University.