Aisle 2, Row 3, Seat 5, Texas Theatre, 231 West Jefferson Boulevard, Dallas, Texas


Approximately an hour after he fatally shot President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald entered the Texas Theatre around 1:30 p.m. He didn’t pay for a ticket, and sat in the back to watch the second part of a double feature, Cry of Battle/War Is Hell.

It was inside here, seated at , that Oswald was found by the police. When the police arrived, Oswald behaved as a guilty person that he was. As cops approached him, he punched an officer in the face, and drew a revolver from his waistband before being tackled down and cuffed.

When Joel Stenfeld showed up at Texas Theatre in 1993 for his book, On This Site: Landscape in Memoriam, Oswald’s seat were long gone. The actual chair was removed that very day by the manager who took it home as a souvenir. Its replacement was confiscated(!) by the FBI the next day for evidence thinking it was the original seat. The book, published in 1996, was a powerful record of fifty locations in America where acts of violence were committed. (Today, the seat has golden words, “Lee Harvey Oswald, November 22, 1963″painted upon it). 


Dallas | 50 Years Later



The photo above was taken by AP’s photographer James Altgens.  It was taken in Dealey Plaza right after the second shot — first and most controversial of three photos he took of the motorcade after the assassination. In the photo, the president can be seen with his hands near his throat, reacting to being shot (although you can’t really see him, thanks to the mirror). 

A controversial fact was that one faint figure in the back by the doorway looked like scrawny Oswald. His presence there was an impossible fact if he was firing bullets at Kennedy. The Warren Commission pored over the image, called witnesses, and decided that Oswald was not in the doorway. Also in Altgen’s photo is the Dal-Tex Building, with its white fire escape in the far background; many conspiracy theories suggested a gunman fired down from the Dal-Tex at the president. 

Enough ink and pixel has been spent over the assassination, so here I will just refer to stripper Little Lynn — “not just a footnote to history, but a footnote to a footnote” as Stephen King wrote in his excellent fictional account of the assassination, 11/22/63. Google her name.

Odds on a presidential assassination are very long. But to quote King again, “so are the odds on winning the lottery, but someone wins one every day.”

American Presidency, Part I.

Iconic Photos look back at the most iconic presidential photos from 1939 – 1974.

You don’t need Iconic Photos to tell you that there is an election campaign going on in the United States, especially if you live in America. Despite all limitations and checks & balances on his power, the President of the United States is often considered to be the Most Powerful Man on the planet, and the Presidency itself a bully pulpit.

Modern American presidency as we know it today began under Franklin Delano Roosevelt; many remember FDR as an avuncular figure from news reels and radio broadcasts, the man who won the Second World War. Meanwhile his crippling polio was largely kept out of the public eye until Time magazine controversially published a photo featuring his wheelchair.

His successor, Harry Truman, was best remembered photographically for a premature headline, calling the 1948 Presidential Election for his opponent. While he was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Dwight D. Eisenhower had some memorable photos, but as president, he presided over a largely uneventful decade during which American military and economic might was nothing but rapidly ascendent. It was hardly surprising that he left the White House with high approval ratings (only tempered by Sputnik and U2 incident).

Jack Kennedy, too, enjoyed high approval rates; he also enjoyed Eisenhower’s counsel, after the Bay of Pigs fiasco; two presidents walking hunched-shoulder to hunched-shoulder was memorably captured in an award winning photo by Paul Vathis. The Loneliest Job — another image of Kennedy’s unique silhouette — makes, at least to this writer, the definitive portrait of an American presidency.

Lyndon Johnson entered the pantheon of iconic images on the very first day of his presidency as he was haphazardly sworn in on the Air Force One. When he finally left Washington five years later, he had already presided over a disastrous war. Jack E. Kightlinger’s photo of anguished Johnson listening to a tape from Vietnam makes a sombering picture.

While one of Nixon’s most memorable photos was made when he was Eisenhower’s Vice President. His ‘debate’ with the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev solidified his foreign policy credentials. A decade later, he would leave the White House equally memorably.

(To be continued….)

Links 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


Also, I have been asked to pass on this message from a reader. Apparently, there is a social media platform called LiveCitizen/Fix*Us; it lets users weigh in on campaign issues, soliciting solution for pressing problems. A winner will be selected from each category and will receive a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice. I think it’s an intellectually stimulating challenge. Check it out here. Disclaimer: I don’t get any commission from them.


Stan Stearns (1935 – 2012)

Stan Stearns, who took the definitive photograph at John F. Kennedy’s funeral, has died, aged 76.

Many photographers were in front of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington on that sombre day, 25th of November 1963, cordoned off from the cathedral and the grief-stricken Kennedys, and many captured the emotive portraits of a family that had captivated the nation’s imagination for the previous four years. But the single most famous image of that poignant occasion — that of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s casket on his very third birthday — was taken by Stan Stearns for United Press International.

Throughout the 1990s and in the 2000s, before internet made such claims easier to verify, another White House photographer, Joe O’Donnell claimed that he took the photo, a claim that was only disapproved after O’Donnell died in 2007. Back then, Stearns recalled how he came to take the photo:

It was a “world beater” for UPI. I was chosen to walk with Jackie and the world leaders from the White House to St. Matthew’s for the JFK service. When we got there I had to go behind the ropes with the other 70-odd photographers. All squeezed in an area for 30. Wow! UPI photographer Frank Cancellare squeezed me in next to him…. I had the longest lens, a 200mm. … I just watched Jackie. She bent down and whispered in [John-John’s] ear. His hand came up to a salute. Click! One exposure on a roll of 36 exposures.

As the caisson was rolling out to Arlington Cemetery I asked every photographer I could if they had the salute. Duh! Nobody saw it. They were concentrating on Jackie and the caisson. At this point I made a decision to walk the film into the bureau. I knew we had photographers along the way and at least four at the cemetery. They could do without me.

When I walked in the office George Gaylin [Washington Newspictures Manager] almost had a heart attack. I have never seen a man that mad. He turned red then white. Yelling and screaming that I did not go to Arlington. I kept telling him I had the picture of the funeral. He was yelling that he had rolls and rolls of film from ump-teen photographers covering the funeral. While Harold Blumenfeld [Executive Editor for News Pictures] and Ted Majeski [Managing Editor for News Pictures] were trying to calm him down, Frank Tremaine [Vice President, General Manager for News Pictures] grabbed me by the collar and said: “You better have the picture of the funeral or you’re fired.”

Knowing it was going to be a big enlargement, and knowing my job was on the line, I went into the darkroom with fine grain developer to develop the film. Unheard of at UPI. It took 17 min. I could hear Gaylin pacing outside the door muttering. When the negative was washed and dried I went to Gaylin’s desk. He looked at it and yelled! “He does have the picture of the funeral.” He quickly showed it to Ted Majeski and Harry Blumenfield on his way to have it enlarged and printed. The rest is history….

When the photo was transmitted the credit was UPI/ by Stan Stearns. Back then that was almost unheard of. Reporters got a byline, photographers got zip. The photo was used worldwide. Full page in some newspapers and magazines. A few with credit to UPI/Stan Stearns. Life [magazine] used it with no credit. I called the Life picture editor about the credit. He said would correct it in the future. He did. Well, in 1999 when JFK, Jr. died, he either had moved on or no one looked at the credit or they got it direct from Corbis. The credit was Corbis-Bettman on the cover of Life and Time.

By this time Mr. Stearns had moved on too. He quit UPI in 1970 and had been shooting weddings and portraits since.

The Loneliest Job

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).

Fabian Bachrach

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.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall


Anthony Suau is a longtime Time magazine contract photographer. He has captured a range of subjects, from famine in Ethiopia, wars in Chechnya and Iraq to the transformation of Soviet states after the fall of communism. When his agent sent him to cover the opening of the border between East and West Berlin, he was unsure at first, but his agent convinced him that it would be the ‘story of a lifetime’. It was of the pictures he had taken the above picture of the West Germans trying to climb now-merely-symbolic wall at dawn after hammering at the concrete throughout the night became the most iconic image. In the picture, the West Germans are repulsed by police with a water-cannon. [East German guards used their water cannon for a time, trying to control the crowds but it was no use.] For 10 years following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Suau has traveled the lands of the former Soviet bloc, making a photojournal Beyond the Fall.

In August  1961, the Wall went up. The-then President John F. Kennedy’s reaction was subdued at first. Earlier in June, he had met with Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, where Khrushchev threatened Berlin with a blockage unless the American troops withdraw. After Kennedy left Vienna, he thought that war was on the horizon. Thousands had fled to the West in the previous months, and through the Berlin Wall, Khrushchev solved his refugee problem in a way that would not violate American rights. The State Department framed building of the Wall as a success for the West. Secretary of State Dean Rusk said its construction represents a victory for the West because it showed that the Communists had to imprison their own people. The world, however, viewed it differently. It took the fiery editorials in every American newspaper, accused the US of appeasement and outraged cables of ambassadors from Europe to change the official positions of the U.S. government with regards to the Wall.

The next year, Kennedy went to Berlin and gave his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. It was a beginning of American resolve towards the Wall that would culminate with Reagan’s equally memorable speech 25 years later and the subsequent fall of the Wall.


Jackie Kennedy & Lee Radziwill


Jackie Kennedy and her sister Princess Lee Radziwill keeping vigil. The gripping photograph was made at Sen. Robert Kennedy’s funeral as the coffin was carried from the ceremony into the night.

It was one of the most famous photos Robert Lebeck who take for the German magazine Stern, where he worked for 20 years. Lebeck was traveling in Africa for three months as a photographer for Hamburg magazine Kristall in 1960, the year that the European powers bestowed independence on their last colonies, and Lebeck was there to made his signature photojournal “Afrika im Jahre Null” (“Africa in Year Zero”) which included a photograph of a African boy stealing the steel scabbard of Belgian King Baudouin, Lebeck’s most famous picture.

When Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian revolutionary leader, returned to Tehran from Paris after 15 years of exile, Lebeck sat with him in the plane. In 1963, he was at the coronation of Pope Paul VI. Lebeck photographed Cardinal Ottaviani laughing as he kissed the pope’s hand; he would have so much preferred being named pope. This image has become an icon of photojournalism. ‘‘It shows what it means to be there when the event takes place,’’ Lebeck said.