The Campus Center Ballroom A surpassed maximum capacity by nearly 45 heads when photographer David Burnett visited the University of La Verne to present a lecture for his exhibit, “44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the Word,” on Nov. 21.
Although the title of the gallery may have convinced the audience that his exhibit was strictly focused on Iran, half of Burnett’s lecture focused on Vietnam.
An artist of more than 40 years, Burnett traveled to Vietnam in the 1970s as a freelance photographer and has had his work published in Time Magazine, Life Magazine and National Geographic.
“It’s up to you to just turn on your explorer vibe and follow it,” Burnett said to his audience of 92.
“That’s really what it was all about. It wasn’t necessarily about just coming up with something for a magazine. It’s great to get published and have that pay for getting published but the important thing was to create work that really talked about these things,” he said.
Burnett presented a slideshow that included photos of a soldier holding a letter from back home, young children burned and running from napalm and a young man crying, holding up his hands that are covered in blood from his dead friend’s body.
“A lot of what I was doing was just kind of on the fringes of the battle and on the fringes of what was going on between the battles,” Burnett said.
“Certainly as a young photographer, a lot of it had to do with just trying to explore what was out there and figure out if I could get something that made sense not only to me but to those back in the states,” he said.
While graphic, Burnett’s photographs made a lasting impression on sophomore psychology major Alora Barrera.
“I found the photos very striking,” Barrera said. “In order to get some context about them, I read the binder that is in front of the gallery, and I found it interesting how he uses different mediums of color versus black and white to show the differences between the impressions, the protests and the actual emotions of the people in the photographs.”
Although Burnett has used several cameras throughout his career, his Leica was most mentioned in his lecture.
“I would recommend people see this gallery because it shows a whole new side to the revolution that you wouldn’t hear about in the news,” she said.
“It demonstrates how the people truly felt,” Barrera said.
“When you just listen to the news or read articles about it, you just hear the government’s point of view, you don’t actually see or think about what the people are going through and these photographs do a really good of representing that,” she said.
Toward the end of Burnett’s lecture, he presented more recent and lighthearted photos that ranged from the 2012 Summer Olympics to intimate photographs of Bob Marley.
“I thought that this lecture was just going to be about Iran but I’ve seen that Vietnam picture about the burned girl and it was just incredible to know that he was there,” junior international studies major Samuel Rosales said.
“I would say that the lecture was very upfront, very nostalgic, witty and offers good insight on what a good photojournalist should be,” said sophomore art history major Liam Machado.
The photograph that caught Machado’s interest was one of three Iranian men showing their backs to the camera with one holding a revolver.
“They’re sort of looking around very tense as if a lot of unrest was happening around when the photo was taken,” he said.
“It looked very lonely and tense so I would say that one caught my eye the most,” Machado said.
“44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World” will run through Dec. 13 in the Irene Carlson Gallery.
Karla Rendon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.