New York Photo Review
Volume 5 Issue 6 February 11 to 17, 2014

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

More Memories of JFK
Jacques Lowe
My Kennedy Years
Ed Barnas

Photo by Jacques Lowe . Source: Jacques Lowe, "JFK, Omaha, Nebraska, Labor Day Weekend" 1959

Fifty years ago holiday preparations were overshadowed by the assassination of President John F Kennedy and the subsequent outpouring of grief. Several current exhibits offer varying takes on the event: Visitors to ICP can take in “JFK November 22, 1963: A Bystanders View of History,” which features photos and film stills from both professionals and amateurs of that fateful trip and the ensuing funeral while a trip to the Paley Center for Media offers video clips and perspectives on the media coverage of the tragedy.

The Westwood Gallery downtown offers a different memory – “My Kennedy Years” dwells not on the events of that fateful day but rather on the man at the center of it seen through the lens of a young photographer, Jacques Lowe. The fifty prints on display cover the period from 1958 to 1962 and run the gamut from the very public to the quietly intimate.

Lowe had taken some photos of Bobbie Kennedy that attracted the attention of Joseph Kennedy, who asked him to photograph his “other son, Jack.” A magazine photographer, Lowe soon became then-Senator Kennedy’s Official Campaign Photographer. His coverage begins early in the campaign and we see Jack and Jackie sitting in an empty diner, Jackie looking off to the side as Jack talks to an aide. Later, the candidate appears, alone and gazing in the water, after a not too successful speech. As the campaign progresses the photos of speeches to large crowds remind me of similar images from the whistle-stop campaigns of the 1920’s & 1930’s; a photo of the candidate in Omaha with a troupe of Speed Graphic wielding photographers out of focus in the background reinforces the connection to the past.

Photo by Jacques Lowe . Source: Jacques Lowe, "JFK" Fall, 1960

But the 1960 Presidential campaign was also a break with the past, incorporating an evolving use of television and the intimacy of the smaller still camera to shape the candidates image and present a message more effectively to the public. One such example is the photo of Kennedy, his fist thrust forward to make a point - but the hand is blurred, emphasizing both the intensity and the vitality of the speaker. Another example is a low angle shot of Jack and Jackie against the sky, walking forward with the American flag waving in the background on a pole leaning into the frame. There is a bit of the backroom politics shown in a photo taken after Kennedy offered Johnson the Vice-Presidential position (with LBJ slyly sipping bourbon from a china coffee cup) and the smile of victory while looking at the papers the day after the election. While there are perhaps a few too many photos included of the inauguration and attendant festivities, the image of the usually bareheaded JFK wearing a top hat offered a nice surprise.

Photo by Jacques Lowe . Source: Jacques Lowe, "JFK, The morning after the elections" 1960

After the election Lowe declined a position as official White House Photographer but agreed to stay on as JFK’s personal photographer. The public face appears in such formal events as a state visit to France. However, the close relationship between photographer and subject is evident in photographs of more private moments such as the image of JFK bent over a table working late in the oval office or his emotional response when learning of the death of Patrice Lumumba over the phone. Also included are a dozen images of Jackie and their daughter Caroline.

We are fortunate that the prints on display at the Westwood Gallery are all originals, either vintage or printed in later in the 1980s. The majority are b&w silver gelatin prints, 11x16 images on 16x20 stock, with a few color C-prints on Agfa stock dating from the 1980s. Though carefully stored in a vault in the Twin Towers, Lowe’s original negatives (some 40,000) were destroyed on 9/11 and it has been necessary to use scans of contacts sheets and work prints stored offsite to digitally recreate a number of the lost images from that era.

Jacques Lowe
My Kennedy Years

Westwood Gallery
568 Broadway
Lower Manhattan - West         Map

212 925 5700

Friday, November 22 to
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11 to 6

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