Millions of people have seen the above photo, but few, if any, will recall who took the iconic image. Fabian Bachrach, who died last Friday at 92, was best known for his above classic portrait of the-then Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy, which became the official presidential portrait.
In 1959, John Kennedy sat for a Bachrach. When they were developed, none were usable: the images were either out of focus or showed the senator, who endured chronic back pain, standing awkwardly (Kennedy can’t sit still very long either). Although Fabian Bachrach called Kennedy’s office repeatedly for a second session, he was granted an appointment only the next summer. Bachrach flew from Boston to Washington only to find the session cancelled and his subject detained by all-night Senate proceedings. He waited for 8 hours and as he was about to be leave, Kennedy appeared.
The senator gave him only ten minutes. Bachrach took six photos; one in black and white became the presidential portrait while another color one showing Kennedy seated in a leather armchair with an American flag behind him was also widely reproduced.
The patriarch of the oldest continuously operating photo studio in the world, Fabian Bachrach inherited an institution which took official photographs of every American president since Abraham Lincoln. A native Bostonian, Bachrach created the portraits for Joseph P. Kennedy as early as the 1930s, took wedding pictures for JFK and other Kennedys and would went on to craft the official senate portraits for two other Kennedy brothers. International leaders and celebrities all sat for Fabian Bachrach.