Marking the 55th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, London’s Proud Central gallery is exhibiting Mark Shaw’s intimate portraits of the Kennedy family taken in the years preceding his death. Shaw was a renowned photojournalist and the Kennedys’ unofficial family photographer, and his images offer an unrivalled depiction of the president and first lady in their golden era.
Mark had built a strong reputation as a fashion and portrait photographer in the 1950s for publications such as Harper’s Bazaar before he began his longstanding work for Life magazine, eventually shooting over 27 covers and 100 stories for the title with stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Pablo Picasso. This led to his commission in 1959 to photograph portraits of Jackie Kennedy and then-senator John F. Kennedy during his presidential campaign, depicting them at the White House and their holiday home – the latter including JFK’s favourite portrait of himself: JFK on the dunes near Hyannis Port. This image has been used frequently since JFK’s assassination to symbolise his presidency, and has been on display in White House through multiple presidencies since. “The portrait depicts JFK as a reflective and romantic figure,” the gallery says, “and helped to cement the idea of ‘Camelot’, which Jackie so deftly applied to his presidency.”
The photographer is said to have became a close friend of the family, and when JFK was assassinated in 1963, he distanced himself from photography having been deeply affected by the event. He died unexpectedly aged 47 and most of his works – many unseen – were put in storage for over 40 years, until his son and daughter-in-law discovered them and published The Kennedys: Photographs by Mark Shaw in 1996, as well as forming the Mark Shaw Photographic Archive. Many of the most iconic will be shown as part of this exhibition at Proud, opening 22 March – 6 May 2018.
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