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Remembering Jack: Intimate and Unseen Photographs of the Kennedys by Jacques Lowe


Rating: (Recommended)


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If this year’s presidential politics gets you down, be sure to pick up the recent collection of Jacques Lowe’s Kennedy photos titled, Remembering Jack. You’ll be transported back forty years and will smile at many of the pictures of a simpler and more vigorous time in American political history.  Here’s a quote from page 12:


“On Assignment Washington and Hickory Hill”


Robert F. Kennedy, 30, was edging onto the national stage and Jacques Lowe, 26, was emerging as a supremely talented photographer when they met in the summer of 1956.

You could say it was luck that brought together this unlikely pair: an untutored, half-Jewish kid, who hid from the Nazis with his mother in Germany during World War II then immigrated to the United States, and a man born into position and privilege, feeling his way uncertainly into public life under the prodding of his father, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, a man who had accumulated one of the world’s largest fortunes, estimated at $300 million.

Jacques, as a winner of Life magazine’s young photographers contest, found himself in demand among magazines wanting images of Bobby Kennedy. The young politician was a contradictory figure—he started out working for notorious Communist-hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy, then became majority counsel for Senator John McClellan’s select “rackets committee” investigating corruption in the Teamsters union.

The colorful sparring between slight, sharp-nosed Bobby (sometimes dismissed by critics as “the ferret”) and union toughs Dave Beck and Jimmy Hoffa proved high drama as it played out in the Senate’s famed Caucus Room.

Three assignments in a single week took New Yorker Jacques to Washington to photograph Bobby in action and, in passing, to snap a few frames of his older brother, John F. Kennedy, a committee member who had made an unsuccessful but memorable bid for the Democratic vice presidential nomination that year. Jacques was met by a restrictive roster of rules as to where and when pictures could be taken, and the committee’s verbal exchanges unfolded across a dim ten yards of space—hardly the conditions for dramatic photographs.

Back then the Caucus Room was blue with cigarette smoke. Photographers say it took an extra F-stop some days to cut through the haze. The cameramen, consigned to the floor in front of the Senate inquisitors and ordered to remain unobtrusive, hunched down and crawled around in search of camera angles.

Bobby, even then developing a sharp eye for Kennedy imagery, loved Jacques’s pictures. It was a time when photojournalism and the art of the picture story were celebrated, when naturalness and truth supplanted the posed and phony. Bobby fed into this by introducing a new tradition to Washington: He invited his staff and select journalists and photographers to his estate of huge hickory trees and rolling hills in McLean, Virginia. There, around the swimming pool, at the tennis court, or while devouring barbecue, they discussed tactics for the rackets hearings, then broke for touch football or horseback riding or family rituals with Bobby, his wife Ethel, and their growing crew of children.

At no time in Bobby’s short, but brilliant, rise to power was anything given higher priority than his family. The young father, a deeply religious man, eagerly directed the family fray, corralling escaped animals or gathering toys from the lawn and, in the evenings, helping to transform his children from smudged ruffians to scrubbed angels on their knees for bedtime prayer. Patriarch Joseph Kennedy once complained, “None of my kids give a damn about making money and I don’t blame them.” Jacques had never seen anything like this and his camera lens captured this confluence of politicking with exuberant family play as he followed the caravan from Bobby’s Hickory Hill estate to the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

Jacques presented Bobby with 124 large prints of the family as a thank you for the Kennedy hospitality. An ecstatic Bobby asked for another set to give his father on his 69th birthday. Joseph P. Kennedy declared the pictures “the most wonderful present” he had ever received, then asked the photographer to do the same for his other son, John. That assignment would usher Jacques, with his talented eye, into one of the great epics of American history.

You’ve not seen these photos before, and in Remembering Jack, you’ll see the work of a master capturing the work and play of other masters.

Steve Hopkins, July 26, 2004


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the August 2004 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: Jack.htm


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