By Jody Kerzman
One of the people instrumental in Donna Hardt’s success as a television news photographer has been Dwayne Walker. The two were childhood friends in Selfridge and their paths continued to cross even after Donna’s family moved to Bismarck.
Dwayne started his career as a news photographer at Bismarck’s KXMB-TV in 1966. He was just 20 years old.
“I was in college and needed a part time job. I had been flipping burgers at the Auto Dine restaurant, and I wanted something else. I had no intentions of being a news photographer my whole life though.”
Dwayne’s father was a self-taught photographer and Dwayne learned the skill by watching him. In fact, his dad’s interest in photography helped Dwayne land his first job at KXMB.
“I was in Dave Blackstead’s office for a job interview at KXMB when his phone rang. It was Art May, who ran a photography store in Bismarck at the time. Dave mentioned he had me in his office and Art told him to hire me. Art knew my dad and figured I must be a good photographer too.”
Dwayne took the job and began his career shooting news on 16mm film, which he also developed and edited for the newscasts. When the station was sold a few years later, Dwayne was laid off.
“I was in the National Guard and they basically created a job for me. I worked as a clerk in the public affairs office until my friend Al Gustin, who was acting news director at KFYR, offered me a part time position as a news photographer at KFYR-TV.”
That was in 1972; Dwayne still works at KFYR-TV as chief photographer. He’s traveled to the Great Wall of China, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Guatemala for stories. He’s flown in military helicopters, B-17 and B-52 bombers, covered floods, fires, and shaken hands with Presidents Reagan, Carter, Ford, Obama, Bush (H.W.), Trump, and First Lady Laura Bush. He’s covered politics, and was recently honored by the North Dakota House of Representatives for covering his 25th legislative session. There have been numerous other awards over the years and in August, Dwayne will receive the North Dakota Broadcasters Association’s Pioneer award, a prestigious award given annually to a true icon and legend in the broadcast industry.
“That’s a pretty big honor. Al Gustin nominated me and when I look at the list of previous Pioneer award recipients, it’s neat to see so many of my coworkers and friends, including Al, Dick Heidt, and Rog Higgins, have received the award too.”
It has been 50 years since Dwayne took off the apron at the Auto Dine for what he thought would be another part-time job, a decision that developed into a career capturing North Dakota’s news and preserving memories for others. He plans to retire from KFYR-TV at the end of May, but Dwayne says photography defines him so he won’t be putting away the camera or pushing the stop button. He is currently working to get his commercial drone license so he can do even more photo projects through his business, Dwayne Walker Photography.