Remembering Paul S. Conklin

Paul S. Conklin, the first official photographer of the Peace Corps and renowned for his ability to capture the warmth of the human spirit, has died. He was 74. Mr. Conklin, who as a freelancer shot the famous photograph of a Vietnam War protester placing a daisy in the barrel of a National Guard soldier’s rifle, died Wednesday of cancer at age 74 at his home near Beckett Point west of Port Townsend. His work was featured in National Geographic, Time magazine and The New York Times, and he twice won first place at the annual White House photography exhibit, said his wife, Ruth Merryman. “Your photos proved in ways more powerful than words that we truly are all God’s children and more alike than different,” wrote Peace Corps founding director Sargent Shriver in a letter to Mr. Conklin on Aug. 22. Mr. Conklin attended Wayne State University in Michigan, earned a master’s degree at Columbia University and was chosen to document the Peace Corps in 1964 after the volunteer agency was formed. He traveled with Shriver around the world, photographing volunteers, war protesters and Third World children. Later, as a freelancer based in Washington, D.C., he collaborated with writer Brent Ashabranner on a series of juvenile nonfiction books about children of vanishing cultures and also wrote and illustrated his own books, including “Michael of Wales.” His photojournalism essays on poverty in Latin American appeared frequently in U.S. Catholic magazine, including “The View from Juarez” last month. Together with his sons, David and Peter, Mr. Conklin wrote “Land of Yesterday, Land of Tomorrow,” a book based on their travels through central Asia. After Mr. Conklin and Merryman moved to Port Townsend in 1995 for the scenery and bird watching, he often brought his camera to community events and did volunteer photography for the police, Jefferson General Hospital, Northwest Maritime Center, the Port Townsend Film Festival and the Centrum arts and music festivals. In addition to his wife, survivors include a sister, Katherine Green of San Francisco, and a grandson. A community memorial service and photographic display is planned Oct. 12 at the USO building at Fort Worden State Park.