Dick Swanson was staff photographer on the Champagne-Urbana News-Gazette while attending the University of Illinois. Swanson then worked on the Davenport Democrat and the Des Moines Register newspapers before signing a contract with Black Star Publishing Co., in New York.
Swanson went to Vietnam in 1966, where he worked on contract for Life Magazine (Swanson's first picture in Life was in 1957). While in Vietnam, he wrote, produced and directed two one-hour films for Black Star. After five years in Vietnam, Life moved him to their Washington, D.C., bureau where he was their White House photographer.
After Life ceased publication in 1972, Dick remained in the bureau working for Time, People, Money and Fortune magazines. He has photographed 500 stories for Time-Life. Since 1980 he has freelanced working for the National Geographic, The Washington Post (over 400 assignments) and Newsweek. (In 1986 he was asked to compete against some of the countries top photographers for Newsweek's signature picture of the Statue of Liberty Centennial issue. Swanson's picture was chosen and ran as the magazine's first-ever four page gatefold). In 1992, Washington's CBS affiliate, W*USA-TV, aired a five-part series on South Africa using Swanson's photographs. It was later turned into a half-hour special.
His photographs have won numerous national and international awards including World Press, National Press Photographers Association, the White House Press Photographer's Association and the prestigious Page One Award. He is included in the Museum of Modern Arts' permanent collection and in 1986, was a contributor to the Corcoran Gallery's exhibition, "The Indelible Image". Swanson has covered events in Asia, Central America, Europe, the Eastern Bloc countries, the Caribbean, the Middle East and South Africa. He recently was featured on NBC's DATELINE in a story about his return to Vietnam after 20 years.
Last year, The Center For American History at the University of Texas in Austin asked for Swanson's body of work dating back to 1956. When transfer of his work is complete it will cover some 40 years, thousands of assignments from 20 different countries and some 100,000 photographs.