Originally created 11/25/03

Kennedy photos displayed at Sixth Floor Museum



DALLAS -- One frame shows John F. Kennedy putting on socks while aboard his family's private plane. In the next shot, he's napping with a mask over his eyes.

These are hardly the glamorous photos of a presidential candidate. They are the candid shots that Jacques Lowe sought in his years as the personal photographer for John and Robert Kennedy.

Hundreds of his restored photographs went on display Saturday at The Sixth Floor Museum. The contact-sheet images, many of which have never been shown publicly, are all that's left of Lowe's once-gigantic collection.

More than 40,000 negatives portraying the Kennedy family, from the campaign trail to pensive times in office to playful moments on the lawn, were destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. But Lowe, who died at age 71 shortly before the attacks destroyed the negatives in a bank vault, had saved contact sheets in his Manhattan studio.

These tiny rows of black-and-white snapshots were retrieved and, through modern technology, restored to become bigger-than-life displays. Some blown-up photos span from floor to ceiling at the museum, while others form smaller collages.

The photos are included in Hugh Sidey's new book, "Remembering Jack: Intimate and Unseen Photographs of the Kennedys."

The contact sheets, with their grease-pen circles and notes, capture a family in action. Viewers can see a sequence of shots and speculate why one frame was chosen over another. Some frames became the well-known images that have endured for decades, though most are more obscure.

Among them are shots of John and Jacqueline Kennedy lounging in their living room. There are also images of serious discussion between Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson.

"He had an artist's eye and inside access, so the pictures he made had this wonderful human quality," said Ruth Ann Rugg, the museum's interpretive director. "And the Kennedys understood the power of image."

Lowe was born far from the Kennedy privilege.

During World War II, he hid from the Nazis with his mother in Germany. He quit school at age 12, and migrated to the United States in 1949. He settled in New York City, where he became a photographer's apprentice.

In the early 1950s, Lowe won Life magazine's young photographer's contest, which caught the eye of Robert Kennedy.

Lowe took family pictures for Robert Kennedy in 1956. Kennedy's father liked the work so much that he asked him to photograph John Kennedy as well. Lowe stayed with the Kennedys from their entry into politics until 1962.

Some of Lowe's most stirring photos are of John F. Kennedy's funeral. The funeral Mass card contains a famous Kennedy's profile, which is among the contact sheets. The funeral photos were among the last Lowe took of the Kennedys.

"He was so devastated by Jack's death and Bobby's assassination that he put down his camera and left the country," Rugg said.

Lowe later photographed for John F. Kennedy Jr.'s George magazine.

The show runs through June 6, 2004. Other stops for the exhibit have not yet been determined.