Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 during a parade through Dallas’ Dealey Plaza. An exhibit in Midtown’s International Center of Photography is focused on this historic moment as the dawn of “citizen journalism,” as innocent bystanders brought along personal cameras (a luxury at the time) to capture a shot of the president. By happenstance, these civilians were the first on scene to document one of the biggest scandals in the country’s history. ICP has put together a myriad of first images from that day and you can visit on Fridays with a voluntary contribution from 5-8pm.
JFK November 22, 1963 provides viewers with an alternate version of history—and of the history of photography—different from the official narrative. In doing so, it considers the historical and aesthetic merits of vernacular photographs, which collectively constitute a kind of folk history of photography. On the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy, these historical artifacts demonstrate the active role of photography in negotiating trauma and mourning.
These stills are from the famous Abraham Zapruder home movie that documented the fateful moment of the JFK assassination.
The exhibit is unique in that it highlights the importance of these photos and all historic photos in a society’s collective memory. Images from this day and the following funeral and investigation will forever be remembered by those who witnessed the events on their TV sets or from reading about them in the press. The exhibition has another side to its argument: “the failure of professional news photographers to capture the climactic moments of the historical narrative.” As Brian Wallis, ICP Chief Curator, summarizes: “The expectations of traditional photojournalism collapsed on November 22, 1963. Instead, citizen journalists—really just bystanders with cameras—stepped to the forefront to document this unforgettable moment and its historical significance.”
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