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Final Moments

June 2024
1min read

Pictures of the Pain
Photography and the Assassination of President Kennedy


by Richard B. Trask, Yeoman Press, 638 pages, $35.00 . CODE: YEO-1

Richard B. Trask, a photographic archivist who has spent most of his life obsessed with the death of President Kennedy, has amassed an unusual collection of photographers’ stories and seldom-seen pictures of the tragedy. His extensive text covers the whereabouts of every member of the motorcade’s three camera cars, plus the remembrances of the amateurs at work that day. Many of the pictures seem fresh and unfamiliar. We see the whole sequence in which Lyndon Johnson grimly prepares to take the oath of office aboard Air Force One, and we get the numb, claustrophobic mood in the cabin. When Jack Beers was photographing Oswald at the Dallas jail, he had no idea that the blur to his right was Jack Ruby stepping in to kill the assassin. A half-second later the Dallas Times Herald ’s Bob Jackson, to Beers’s left, got the supremely famous picture of Oswald being shot. Being slower than Beers won Jackson the Pulitzer Prize.

The youngest of the photographers was a seventeen-year-old honors student named David Robert Miller. When he took a dramatic picture of the speeding limousine, from which the President’s foot seemed to dangle, Miller had no idea something terrible had happened up the road. This quirky, authoritative book multiplies our angles of view on a national tragedy. By filling in between the monumental pictures we have come to know so well, Trask moves the events back a little bit toward the original sadness.

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