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The 100 Years Project: Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer, David Turnley

David Turnley


David Turnley


55 years old

Where are you from?


Where do you live?

New York City

What do you do for a living?

I am a photographer and a filmmaker.

100 Years from now what do you want to be remembered for?

The truth is, I feel like I am so busy living every day that I absolutely never think about my “legacy”.

I am also not ready to think about 100 Years from now. The whole idea scares me because I don’t want to contemplate my mortality yet. I think the easier answer for me is just how I can actively live my life. Perhaps that sets a platform for the way I might be remembered.

Do you care about whether or not you are remembered or how you are remembered?

I think inevitably I must care.

As a photographer there is always an inherent aspect to the fact that potentially the images I make are immortal. From the time I started photographing at the age of 17 I have been impeccably organized with my negatives and digital files. I am obsessed with the fact that they endure. There must be something in that. Wherever, whenever my existence ceases I will continue to live on in the images I will leave behind. It’s not something that I spend time thinking about on a regular basis. Having said that, if you said to me that my photographic archive was suddenly gone, I can’t think of anything, other than loved ones dying, that would be a more serious loss or cause a powerful sense of grief...

Why would that be like a death for you?

It would represent an absence. When I photograph I feel that I have a voice and I have a voice that can endure because these photographers live. They become both an emblem of something that I may have seen or witnessed but they are also an emblem of something that I have seen...

I increasingly, actively consider the values that make a lot of sense to me. Humility is one of those values. When I speak about humility I get excited about the capacity to be liberated by acknowledging my dark and light sides. As I acknowledge that in myself I get to know people in a more and exciting way. When you drop all of the pretenses you come to terms with the fact that you are so far from perfect.

There is thing that I speak about more and more when I teach workshops. I share an anecdote about how my father used to relate to me as a child. In the mornings before he would go to work he would always say

“Stay low. Hit them harder than they hit you. And, have fun.”


For the last few years I have been fortunate enough to have interviewed some very interesting and incredible people who I have regularly showcased in the Inspiring People section of Dana Delivered. One of my favorite moments of each interview is the last question that I ask each and every Inspiring Person:

100 years from now what do you want to be remembered for?

Often the initial reaction to the question is as fascinating as the answer. To observe each person grapple with issues related to mortality, productivity, the meaning (or meaninglessness) of life as they endeavor to arrive at an answer that somehow reflects something of who they are and what they stand for, has piqued my curiosity to discover what anyone, anywhere might have to say when asked that very question:

100 years from now what do you want to be remembered for?

Join me everyday for the next 365 days as I ask the question, get an answer and capture the images of all kinds of people doing all kinds of things. Visit Dana's Dailies on DanaRoc.com everyday, "friend request" me on Facebook or follow me, @Danaroc on Twitter.

How will you be remembered someday? What is it that you will have said or done or built or mastered that people will still be talking about decades and decades from now, long after you are gone and what if anything are you doing about that right now?

The 100 Years Project is ultimately an attempt in 3 phases to leave a record behind of this particular and unique period of time at the beginning of the 21st century.

Welcome to Phase 1...

Was that about football?

That was about life.

It started when I was playing football and it later took shape for me as a metaphor for everything. The having fun part was the most important thing. To have license to have fun is a great thing...

Can you pinpoint an event that altered the course of your life or that altered they way that you choose to live your life?

When I was eight years old and in the third grade, my teacher announced that John Kennedy had been shot. When we learned he had been killed, school was let out. My mother picked me up. We went home and didn’t take our eyes off the television for three days. My parents wept, not just for the death of President Kennedy but also for the ideals he represented of a civil and civically responsible America.

The second time was when Dr. King was shot. My mom picked me up from school and she was crying. Again, just seeing the effect on my parents left a tremendous impression on me.

What inspired me to start photographing was my twin bother had torn up his knee in a football injury. At that time we were obsessed with football. It was all we did. My dad gave my brother a camera and a book of photographs taken by Henri Cartier Bresson My brother went straight to the inner city and started photographing our Black teammates and people of color in the inner city of Fort Wayne. He would come home with such great photographs. What really jumped out in his photographs was what was equal was the access to dignity. I suddenly got this notion that we are all created equal.

Peter, my brother and I, spent about two years when we were 17 photographing life on one inner city block. It was a block where the poor White and Hispanic working class lived. We just had so much fun. I just loved going to this block and interacting with the people on that street. What became very clear to me was that I wanted this community of people to not be cast aside as some kind of a caricature. There was a joy in being able to expose their humanity.

Do you feel that you have lived a life well spent?

I have been unbelievably privileged. I have no regrets. I give a lot of credit to my family. Those values that I speak about? If you extol those values life just gets better. And if you add to that the notion that you can have fun, it gets even better than that.

Embrace life. Revel in life and go for it...

So, 100 Years from now what do you want to be remembered for?

That I made the people around me feel good about themselves and their lives and that I -

Stayed low, hit them harder than they hit me and I had fun...

*All The 100 Years Project photos are taken by Dana Roc.

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