Remembering JFK

The thirtieth anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination spawned a mass of memorabilia. Lowe’s oversized photographic history certainly was timed to coincide with that anniversary, but it is of a quality that will be appreciated for years.

Lowe concentrates on the period beginning slightly before Kennedy announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency and ending shortly before his assassination. By that time, Lowe had left his position as personal photographer, having tired of the political scene. Approximately half the book concerns the period before Kennedy’s inauguration. Many of the black and white photos cover full pages, but there is room for a large amount of text. Lowe includes a narrative describing how he became the president’s personal photographer and his role in the Kennedy entourage. Interspersed with this are bits of speeches by and about Kennedy, not all of them flattering. As a history, the book is much more enlightening concerning Kennedy’s campaign for the presidency. Events of the presidency are touched on much more lightly; the Bay of Pigs, for example, is treated in a few pages, and the Cuban Missile Crisis receives little mention.

Lowe presents Kennedy more as a man than as a political figure. Many of the photographs are of Kennedy with his family; a large number focus on Jacqueline Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Rather than showing Kennedy at large rallies, more often Lowe shows him at small gatherings, trying to win single votes. The strain and struggle of the campaign and of the presidency are obvious from the selected photos. Lowe succeeds in showing Kennedy as a man with a difficult job who was willing to make the sacrifices necessary to do it well.