All photos by Jay Dickman unless
Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer
Jay Dickman has covered assignments internationally as a photojournalist for
the Times-Herald in Dallas, Texas, and as a contributor to National Geographic,
as well as shooting for most of the Day in the Life books. He's covered
events as diverse as "the war in El Salvador, the Olympics, six Super
Bowls, and the 40th Anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima." His work
has appeared in magazines such as Life, Time, and Conde Nast Traveler, and his
corporate clients include EDS, Hewlett-Packard and Nike.
Climbing the Ladder
Dickman grew up in Dallas. "My initial interest in photography began back
in high school," he recalls. "I rode around with my friends on dirt
bikes and took pictures with an Instamatic camera." A woman who worked
at a local camera store where he got his film developed proclaimed, "Boy,
these are great pictures," and suggested that he get a better camera.
He started by getting a telephoto adapter for his Instamatic. And although his
father didn't encourage Dickman's ambitions of becoming a photographer,
he bought his son a Honeywell Pentax H1A 35mm camera. Dickman's passion
for photography continued in college, although he majored in English literature.
After three years of college, he landed his first photography job with a studio
in Dallas called Wally of Hollywood. "I was shooting three portraits an
hour," he says. Dickman drove around town with a camera, paper backdrop
and lights, and did all his portraiture at customers' homes.
Dickman photographed this tributary of the Owyhee River in Idaho
for National Geographic Adventure magazine.
After a couple of years, he moved
on and became a photographer for the Metro Sports Agency in Dallas. "I
was paid $5 a game," he laughs. Not one to let grass grow under his feet,
Dickman made the rounds of local photographers and asked if he could work for
them. This way, he "built his book" for future jobs.
A major break occurred in 1970 when he was hired by the Times-Herald, a daily
newspaper in Dallas where photographer Bob Jackson had received a Pulitzer Prize
in 1964 for his image of the slaying of Lee Harvey Oswald. "I was sweating
bullets the weekend before I started this job," says Dickman. He was assigned
to shoot all types of stories ranging from spot news to sports and features.
"It was the best learning ground I could have."
A year later, the Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Corporation bought the Times-Herald.
The new owner expanded the paper's coverage of local news and began printing
a morning edition (before this, they had only been an afternoon paper). According
to Dickman, they began bringing in great editors, and "generally dumping
money into it." By now, he was shooting 3--5 assignments a day, ranging
from local news to sports and social events. "That first taste of getting
beyond the ropes was an eye-opener," he exclaims.
lived in a primitive village in Papua New Guinea for three months
to photograph a story for National Geographic entitled, "Return
to the Hunsteins." This image was taken during a "Sing
Sing" celebration in Wagu village.
It was the early '70s, and
all newspaper photos were shot in black-and-white. Dickman hand-metered his
images and did his own darkroom work. Eventually, he began traveling to to cover
major news events, and became a member of the National Press Photographers Association.
In 1979, a woman who Dickman would eventually marry was hired as a lab tech
at the Times-Herald. She eventually became a photographer in her own right,
and quit her job at the newspaper in the early '80s before the couple
In 1982, the Times-Herald sent Dickman on the first of three excursions to cover
the war in El Salvador. In '83, he won a Pulitzer Prize for these powerful
images. In the war-torn nation, he says, he was involved in several dangerous
situations and even came close to being executed. "We tried to travel
in groups and wore bullet-proof vests," he recalls.