Capturing the first live shots ever televised behind enemy lines during combat in Baghdad, Iraq is just one of the many accomplishments CNN senior photojournalist David Rust has achieved in his career.
Rust, who has worked for CNN for 29 years, has covered a myriad of world events, most recently the presidential elections and the Iraq War, and has met various presidents and dignitaries including President George W. Bush, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Rust led a presentation for students and faculty in the Art and Communications Building on Nov. 18.
A large group of students and faculty came to listen to the many interesting anecdotes Rust had to share about the encounters he has faced as a CNN senior cameraman. Since he has covered all the wars dating back to 1993, he had plenty to share.
“He has an interesting perspective on all these events,” Mike Laponis, professor of communications, said.
Aside from capturing the first live shots behind enemy lines, he was also the first and only one to take aerial shots of Ground Zero on Sept. 11.
Some of the events he has covered include the war in Sarajevo, for which he won a national Emmy, Barack Obama’s presidential announcement speech in Springfield, Ill., Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential announcement speech and Obama’s victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago.
In 1999, he finally went to the last continent on his list to visit: Antarctica. He spoke about the many experiences he had while in the South Pole and North Pole, and how, while in the South Pole, he got to ride in a submarine and learned how to make an igloo – which he slept in while on assignment.
While riding in the submarine, Rust thought everything was OK, until he saw where he was bunking. He had a hard time breathing and began to think he was claustrophobic, until someone asked him if he had opened the air valve. Rust answered, “What air valve?”
“It was really cool and a lot of fun,” Rust said. “It was a neat assignment.”
He has also covered many storms and hurricanes, including the recent storm in Galveston, Texas.
While on his assignments, he has encountered some dangerous moments.
While in Sarajevo during the active parts of the war, there was artillery fire near his hotel, later, his car rolled over a hillside and he broke a bone. “But we manage to make it through,” Rust said.
However, there is an adrenaline rush Rust feels when he covers all these events. If he had to choose another profession, he would not be able to because he loves what he does. He did not want a nine to five job. He enjoys being out on the field and in the outdoors. “To me, it is like going to post-graduate school because I’m always learning,” Rust said. “Especially, since I love history, it is pleasing to be at these historical events.”
“Having dinner with Fidel Castro is a one in a lifetime experience,” Rust said.
“Being on the Great Wall of China with President Ronald Reagan made me feel special,” he said. “I just wanted to take in the moment.”
Since Rust travels to so many places in the world, he collects a lot of items from the various assignments.
Some of the collected items include a baseball bat from the Los Angeles riots, a cigar from when he had dinner with Fidel Castro, various objects signed by the presidents, some of the cameras he used, and Christiane Amanpour’s laptop computer from when she covered the first Gulf War. The famous Saddam Hussein statue foot is his, saved in storage in Iraq. Some of his collector’s items are in museums.
Rust explained how when they travel with camera equipment they are charged $150 per bag. They are always trying to think of ways to travel with less gear in order to avoid extra costs. They fly commercial for all their assignments. However, if their destination is less than six hours, CNN rules force him to drive.
Rust has worked with CNN’s well-known anchors and reporters including Amanpour, Soledad O’Brien, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, John King and Candy Crowley.
“I have done a lot of work with Christiane Amanpour overseas,” Rust said. “We have had a lot of close calls.”
As he was completing his associate’s degree at Pasadena City College, he met his wife, Agnes, a former University of La Verne journalism professor. Before Rust became a CNN photographer, he worked as the director of University of La Verne’s public relations in the early 1980s.
In 1993, he moved to Atlanta, Ga., where CNN’s main headquarters is located. He was able to do much more in Atlanta, including international stories.
“I enjoy it in Atlanta,” Rust said. “But I miss the mountains and oceans in California.”
He offered some advice to students majoring in communications. Rust explained how the industry looks for someone who can blog, report, shoot and produce. “Learn as much you can,” Rust said. He also explained how the quickness of doing things and sending the latest news to the viewers is more important to CNN than the quality of work.
“The business is changing a lot,” Rust said.
“I thought it was really informative, especially being a multimedia major,” Sean Hartigan, senior multimedia major, said. “I thought his presentation was very interesting,” Diana Zarate, junior public relations major, said. “It was eye opening that somebody can do so much in his life.”
“He has been to a lot of wars, which is kind of powerful,” Jala Eaton, senior multimedia major, said. “It is really cool that he has so many pictures with presidents and dignitaries…it was a nice surprise.”
The next project Rust will be covering is the inauguration at the White House in January.
Natalie Veissalov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.