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The Loneliest Job

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George Tames covered Washington D.C for four decades (1945-1985) and is best remembered for one, “The Loneliest Job,” a photograph of President John F. Kennedy looking out of the south window of the oval office. Tames took the photograph through the door of the Oval Office, after Kennedy thought he had left. From behind, it looks as if he is carrying the weight of the world. Kennedy – who had a bad back – simply was reading the newspapers standing up, as he often preferred to do.

Tames remembered: “President Kennedy’s back was broken during the war, when that torpedo boat of his was hit by the Japanese destroyer. As a result of that injury he wore a brace on his back most of his life. Quite a few people didn’t realize that. Also he could never sit for any length of time, more than thirty or forty minutes in a chair without having to get up and walk around. Particularly when it felt bad he had a habit, in the House, and the Senate, and into the Presidency, of carrying his weight on his shoulders, literally, by leaning over a desk, putting down his palms out flat, and leaning over and carrying the weight of his upper body by his shoulder muscles, and sort of stretching or easing his back. He would read and work that way, which was something I had seen him do many times. When I saw him doing that, I walked in, stood by his rocking chair, and then I looked down and framed him between the two windows, and I shot that picture.

Although the photo was taken on Feb. 10, 1961 — just a few months into Kennedy administration — the image would later take on a more symbolic meaning as the Kennedy presidency waded into difficult waters. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the New York Times christened the photo, “The loneliest job in the world.” The photo was a favourite of President Clinton, who hang it in the Treaty Room, the presidential private office on the second floor of the White House. The West Wing recreated it for its opening segment (below).

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 18, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , ,

21 Responses

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  1. [...] Being President of the United States is probably the loneliest job in the world. [...]

  2. The photo was also semi-re-created in the TV movie The Missiles Of October. William Devane played Jack and interestingly Martin Sheen played Bobby. I say “semi” because in the film it was a profile view but so tremendously easily recognizable. I think I had read once that it was just Jack reading the newspaper but it sure does oh-so-unbelievably fit into those 13 Days in October ’62.

    Zoooma

    October 5, 2010 at 2:39 am

  3. [...] way you’ll be sure to know that you’re not all alone. Yours may sometimes be called the loneliest job in the world, but it doesn’t have to [...]

  4. [...] rip off: composition By dupure, on January 26th, 2011 photo [...]

  5. [...] The Loneliest Job [...]

  6. [...] camera and surrounded by an ethereal glow (below)—a pose that unmistakably echoes the iconic George Tames photograph of President John F. Kennedy leaning against his desk in the Oval Office. The Kennedy image is titled “The Loneliest Job,” a [...]

  7. [...] her back to the camera and surrounded by an ethereal glow—a pose that uncannily echoes the iconic George Tames photograph of President John F. Kennedy leaning against his desk in the Oval Office. The Kennedy image is titled “The Loneliest Job,” a [...]

  8. [...] of the White House, in an image clearly designed to replicate George Tames’ classic portrait of President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, alone with the awesome responsibility of [...]

  9. [...] has routinely assumed the personas of former U.S. presidents. In this photo, Obama is channeling an iconic image of John F. Kennedy known as “The Loneliest Job.” Now the Obama White House has [...]

  10. [...] for bigger photos: Big Three; FDR in a wheelchair; Truman; Kennedy & Eisenhower; JFK and son; the Loneliest Job; Johnson sworn in; anguished Johnson; the Kitchen Debate; Nixon departs.  Rate this:Like [...]

  11. I own a signed copy of this print signed by George Thames. I understand it is one of a few signed.

    Ricardo Rodriguez

    April 22, 2013 at 2:02 am

  12. […] his head bowed, which was shot by New York Times photographer George Tames. That photo, dubbed “The Loneliest Job In the World,” went on to become an icon of the Cuban Missile Crisis, although it was snapped several months […]

  13. […] his head bowed, which was shot by New York Times photographer George Tames. That photo, dubbed “The Loneliest Job In the World,” went on to become an icon of the Cuban Missile Crisis, although it was snapped several months […]

  14. […] his head bowed, which was shot by New York Times photographer George Tames. That photo, dubbed “The Loneliest Job In the World,” went on to become an icon of the Cuban Missile Crisis, although it was snapped several months […]

  15. […] his head bowed, which was shot by New York Times photographer George Tames. That photo, dubbed “The Loneliest Job In the World,” went on to become an icon of the Cuban Missile Crisis, although it was snapped several months […]

  16. […] his head bowed, which was shot by New York Times photographer George Tames. That photo, dubbed “The Loneliest Job In the World,” went on to become an icon of the Cuban Missile Crisis, although it was snapped several months […]

  17. […] sourced from Iconic Photos […]

  18. The picture of jfk looking out the south window of the Oval Office . I’ll like to purchase it .

    Eric Brown

    December 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm

  19. […] independent photographers had given John F. Kennedy, including now famous photographs like George Tames “The Loneliest Job” or Alan Stanley Tretick’s “John F. Kennedy Jr. under the Resolute Desk.” Access may have […]

  20. […] note the pose, with his back to the viewer, which reminds us one of the most famous Presidential photographs in history, George Tames’s view of President John F. Kennedy silhouetted against a window in […]


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