In 1990, when I founded Video News International, an all VJ (or MMJ) global TV news company, the concept was unique. No producers, no camera people, no editors and no on air ‘talent’. Just a journalist with a video camera.
My first investor in the new business was a man named Nick Nicholas. He was, at that time, the Chairman and CEO of Time/Life, later to become Time/Warner.
Time/Life was a home to the best photographer and photo journalists in the world, and Nick was gracious enough to invite me to meet them. “Take them into video,” he told me. “It’s the future.”
And so, my very first group of VJs (today we would call them MMJs) were some of the world’s most talented photographers. Dirck Halstead was amongst them.
I thought I would teach them to shoot and tell video stories, but I soon learned that I had a lot more to learn from them than they did from me. Above all else, they taught me how to see a story and tell a story in pictures.
In conventional TV news, the story is driven by a written script. The reporter then lays down the track and at the last step, an editor tries, as best they can, to cover the script and track with pictures. Sometimes they match, often they don’t. Dirck and the other Time/Life photographers, PF Bentley, David Kennerly, Bill Gentile (Newsweek actually) taught me another way to think and to tell stories visually — pictures first.
It is a process we have continued for more than 30 years now, with great success.
Television is a visual medium first, but in the TV news business we more often than not pay too little attention to the pictures. Dirck knew pictures. He was a war correspondent, the White House photographer; a visual journalist. And he took to video with the same passion he brought to a lifetime in stills. Powerful, moving images and moments that told highly personal, character-driven stories that were both intimate and resonant.
A few years later, I sold the company to The New York Times, taking the paper into video and creating New York Times Televsion.
I was deeply saddened to learn yesterday that Dirck had died. To this day, more than thirty years after I met him, I am still deeply indebted to Dirck. RIP.