In his own words

It has been one of the great honors of my life to return as an alumnus to teach at the Residential College. I have so appreciated my colleagues and students, that wake up each day to try to make a difference with our art and scholarship. 

Over the course of my ten years of teaching Documentary Photography I am extremely proud of the work that my students have produced, and the inclusive evolution that I have witnessed in so many of their world views, and their respect for the power of photography to bear witness. 

I am currently working on a retrospective book of my photographing Paris over the last forty five years. I will continue to make photographs each day, to publish, and exhibit my work, and to teach international photography workshops, in Paris, a city that I love. Thank you to all for your friendship. 

David Turnley

David with his family in Martagny, France


About David

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, two World Press Photos of the Year, and the Robert Capa Award for Courage, David Turnley has documented the human condition in more than 75 countries, and is considered to be one of the best Documentary Photographers working today.

David has extensive experience as a photojournalist in the most perilous war zones of our time, bringing to light a breadth of human experience and tragedy that screams to have a voice and be known to the world. David’s work has always been rooted in a value system that emphasizes a world view of inclusion and “We The People”.

David has covered the world events of the last 40 years including the struggle in South Africa and the election of Nelson Mandela as that country’s first democratically elected President. David has been a dear friend of the Mandela family and is honored to have photographed President Mandela over the course of 23 years following Mandela’s release from prison.

David has documented and worked in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is known for what has been called, The Photograph of the War - during Desert Storm in 1991. He has covered the end of the Cold War and revolutions in Eastern Europe, Tiananmen Square Student Uprisings and Massacre in China, famine in Rwanda and Somalia, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and he was almost killed in a full-scale shelling attack during the war in Chechnya. After returning to the United States to pursue a fellowship studying Filmmaking at Harvard, David moved to New York City, where he found himself once again in a war zone as he was one of the first photographers to arrive beneath the just-attacked World Trade Center towers and spent the day with the first firemen, photographing and trying to find anyone to save in the rubble. About the lives of David Turnley and his twin brother Peter, both acclaimed photojournalists, 60 Minutes made an episode titled “Double Exposure: Peter and David Turnley”.

David is also  an award-winning Director and Producer of both Documentary Films and TV Commercials. He has Directed and Produced three feature-length Documentaries: The Dalai Lama: At Home and in Exile, for CNN, La Tropical, called by Albert Maysles “the most sensual film ever shot in Cuba”; and his epic story of Shenandoah, located in the tough coal region of Pennsylvania. Shenandoah, which found a home on Netflix, was named by The NewFilmmakers Los Angeles as “Best Documentary Film” and David was named “Best Director” for the year 2013.

David is a successful Published Author of eight photographic books, including Mandela: In Times of Struggle and Triumph, from his extensive time photographing the evolution of South Africa, and Nelson Mandela and his family. David is the co-author, with Coach Jim Harbaugh, of Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind, a book documenting the Michigan Football Team, and a second book “Rise Again”. Both books were a result of his having documented with unprecedented access the University of Michigan Football Team over five seasons.

David has been over the last ten years a Tenured Associate Professor at his alma mater, the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art and Design, and Residential College. He studied filmmaking at Harvard on a Nieman Fellowship and has Honorary Doctorates from the New School of Social Research in New York, and from the University of St. Francis in Indiana. He received a B.A. in French Literature from The University of Michigan Residential College and has also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. He is fluent in French and Spanish.

The proud father of two children, David lives with his wife Rachel and family in Paris, where he has been photographing  over the last 45 years. He also has a residence in the northern lake region of Indiana, near Angola.

Read the retirement announcement from Stamps School of Art & Design.