Bill and Monica

Behind the camera: Dirck Halstead
Where: Fundraiser at the Washington D.C. Sheraton Hotel
Photo Summary: Bill Clinton embracing Monica Lewinsky
Picture Taken: Taken on Oct 23, 1996 published by TIME in their August 10 1998 issue

When the Bill Clinton Monica Lewinsky story broke the news media used the same video clip, the one with Monica in a beret, endlessly repeating behind the talking heads. Hungry for more images of the two together media researchers scrambled through their archives to find another Monica and Bill needle in a photo haystack. That’s when, Time magazine photographer, Dirck Halstead entered the picture. He knew that he had seen Monica’s face and hired a researcher to pore over thousands of images until she found the image he remembered taking. Halstead had taken this picture at a 1996 fundraiser in Washington. When he showed it to TIME they sat on it for months waiting for Lewinsky story to become front page news. When Monica decided to go to the prosecutors and offer her testimony, the story was page one material and TIME made this image iconic by making it their cover shot.

Bill Monica Hug with Beret

The infamous beret shot that was overused by the 24 hour news cycle


The Scandal

In 1995, Monica Lewinsky, a graduate of Lewis & Clark College, was hired to work as an intern at the White House during Clinton’s first term. While at the White House her and Bill Clinton, while not engaging in sexual intercourse, participated in various sex acts, including getting his salad tossed! Bill Clinton perhaps realizing the danger of such a relationship puts the relationship on ice and had Monica transferred to the Pentagon to a $32,700 job as the confidential assistant, with a top-secret clearance.

Around this time Monica was asked if she had an affair with the President by lawyers of the Paula Jones case, a sexual harassment case against the President. When Monica’s friend Linda Tripp found out Lewinsky lied to the Paula Jones people she gave secret recording that Tripp had made of Monica admitting the affair to Kenneth Star. Starr used Monica Lewinsky lying under oath as a way to impeach President Bill Clinton. During the infamous trial, he was eventually forced to admit the sexual affair but was acquitted on all impeachment charges of perjury and obstruction of justice during the 21-day Senate trial.

Monica on the rope lines

As Bill and Monica’s relationship began to wane Bill would see less and less of Monica. Almost to the point of stalking Monica tried to keep the flame alive by showing up at various events to get face time with the President. Later talking about her behavior she would recall that “I’m an insecure person … and I was insecure about the relationship at times and thought that he would come to forget me easily … So I made an effort. I would go early and stand in the front (at rope lines) so I could see him.” This is how sharp-eyed researchers found the “Beret” clip of Bill hugging Monica on November 6, 1996, the day after Clinton was re-elected. That clip was used endlessly by the news media to the point that the President of CNN would later apologize. Rick Kaplan, who served as President of CNN (1997-2000) was a good friend of President Clinton and has been quoted as saying it was a “big mistake” for CNN to show its exclusive footage of, “The Hug”, “Clinton probably gave 79 other hugs on that line,” said Mr. Kaplan, noting that Al Gore “also gave God knows how many hugs–not that anyone would care.”

Taking the picture

Again at a Saxophone Club fundraiser at the Washington Sheraton Monica waited at the rope line in hopes of getting some physical contact with Bill. Dirck Halstead recounts what happened next:

The circumstances behind that photograph was that in the last days of the campaign in 1996, the President was making an appearance before what they called the Saxophone Club which were young democrats. And I–at the end of the speech he went down into the crowd to work the line. When that happens, and it happens every presidential event, the photographers who had been on the floor in front of the president are brought up on the stage that he’s just left. And so our position then is on the stage, looking down on the president as he walks through the crowd. And I–somewhere in the process that night … something triggered something and I– took a picture and didn’t think anything more about it.

The reporters raced to the White House archives to discover what Clinton said on that day; he said these dubious words, “I was tired when I walked in, but I’m not tired anymore. You’ve given me a lot of energy.”

Monica





After the scandal, it was hard for Monica to get any kind of work. She was able to publish a successful book and was paid around $1,000,000 from the rights for her famous Barbara Walters interview. At 70 million viewers it was the second highest watched news program in history (The first is Oprah’s prime-time interview with Michael Jackson) but most of that went to legal fees and high cost of living now that she was a celebrity. There was a failed Jenny Craig spokesman gig and for a while, she ran an Internet handbag store and had some success as a reality TV show star. Eventually, she couldn’t take the constant media pressure and moved to the UK, graduating with a master’s degree in social psychology from the London School of Economics in 2006. Anonymous Monica friends have been quoted as saying that, “no one will hire her and she can’t get a job because of Clinton.”

In late 2012 the press broke a story about an upcoming tell-all book where supposedly Monica was getting paid $12 million but as of June 2013, there hasn’t been any more news. When Barbara Walters talked about retiring in 2014 she said that she wanted to do one more interview with Monica “I wouldn’t mind if my last one was Monica Lewinsky… she hasn’t been seen and I think she is a good person. I wouldn’t mind doing an interview with her again.”

Dirck Halstead

It’s ironic to me that after covering presidents and wars and films that probably, in the short term at least, my legacy is going to be having taken the picture of Monica Lewinski hugging President Bill Clinton.

Dirck Halstead first got his start covering the Guatemalan revolution of 1954. While working for TIME (1972-2001) his pictures graced its cover 54 times. Halstead is a big pusher of picture ownership and cites this photo as the reason that all photographers should keep ownership of their photos. As he says:

TIME have first-time rights on the photos. Once they have gone through the take, and pulled a few selects for the TIME-LIFE picture collection, the take goes to my agent, GAMMA-LIAISON. They then comb the take a second time, and pull their selects. Eventually, the take comes back to me, and resides in my light-room until I sort through it again, then send everything to the University of Texas, which is where my archives reside. Because I am busy, I only get around to sending the pictures to Texas about every 18 months … That is why ownership of your photographs is SO important. The simple fact is that no organization has the “memory of the image” that the photographer who took it has. The people who want “work for hire” from photographers, also disassociate their greatest asset from the thing that they have to sell.

Other Famous pictures

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The George Washington Portrait

Behind the camera: Gilbert Stuart
Where: Gilbert Stuart’s studio in Germantown, Pennsylvania, near and now part of the city Philadelphia
Photo Summary: George Washington
Picture Taken: 1796
This image is in the public domain because of its age

In the aftermath of the American revolution, George Washington emerged as an iconic hero that led the new nation of America to Independence. He was the first elected President and images of him were in huge demand. One portrait artist Gilbert Stuart did a series of famous paintings as part of a series on Washington. This one, titled The Athenaeum, was commissioned in 1796 and become the basis for the American one dollar bill

Painting the portrait

By 1796 Washington was over 60 years old. For campaign reasons starting in 1789, he had been wearing dentures that were awkward to hold in his mouth. His first pairs were ill-fitting resulting in his face becoming sunken around the mouth. To fill out his face and provide a more natural look in this portrait Stuart ordered a larger pair of dentures and used cotton to expand his mouth area. The painting was commissioned by Washington’s wife Martha who was delighted in Stuart’s first portrait of Washington (Now called the Vaughan Portrait). Stuart never actually finished the original Athenaeum, for Martha, but created many copies that he did finish and sell to eager buyers.
Washington would occasionally come around the studio to demand the painting be finished and handed over but Stuart never did and it remained unfinished until Stuart’s death in 1828. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston eventually came into possession of the painting where it remains to this day.

Dollar Bill

The American one dollar bill


This portrait was chosen to be printed on the American one dollar in the 1928 series and hasn’t changed since although other aspects of the bill have been tweaked and adjusted from time to time. The one dollar bill is the most common bill of currency and of all the notes printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, one dollar notes make up about 45% of currency production.

Gilbert Stuart

Gilbert Stuart was born in Saunderstown, Rhode Island on December 3, 1755. He showed his talents at a young age and trained under the Scottish artist, Cosmo Alexander. He quickly became a famed artist that painted over a thousand people in his lifetime including the first six Presidents of the United States. He became was one of 18th century America ‘s master portrait artists and his home is now a museum that showcases his life.

Other Portraits

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Reagan Assassination Attempt

Behind the camera: Assembled media members and ABC cameraman Hank Brown
Where: In front of Washington (D.C.) Hilton Hotel located at 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW, near the intersection of Connecticut and Florida Avenues, a few blocks north of Dupont Circle
Photo Summary: The aftermath of John Hinckley’s assassination attempt
Picture Taken: March 30, 1981, 69 days into the United States Presidency of Ronald Reagan

Jerry get off, I think you’ve broken one of my ribs
-Regan to his secret service agent

Reagan’s shooter was a mentally ill John Hinckley Jr who had an obsession with actress Jodie Foster after seeing the film, Taxi Driver. He stalked her for a number of years before he decided that he needed to do something grand to get her attention. Hinckley decided to try and kill the president imitating Travis Bickle the lead character (played by Robert De Niro) of the movie Taxi Driver who also tried to kill a famous politician. On March 30, 1981, Hinkley ambushed the President who was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel after delivering a luncheon address to AFL-CIO representatives. The attempt on Reagan’s life was caught on camera and is often used as one of the most famous pieces of footage of that era.

Video Breakdown




The footage starts with Aides to the President and then the President himself walking down to the Executive Limo parked outside the hotel. It seems like any other day and in the background, you can hear reporters about to ask questions. As the limo comes into the frame you can see a bald James Brady the President’s Press Secretary walk towards the cameraman. Just as Reagan reaches the Limo you hear loud pops, screams and then a commotion as Secret Service and Police wrestle Hinkley to the ground.
As the first shots ring out you can see secret service agent Tim McCarthy wearing a light blue suit go into an almost football stance as he tries to block the bullets from Hinkley’s gun. He succeeded in taking one of the bullets in his abdomen. Surgeons at George Washington University Hospital successfully removed the round from his stomach, and he fully recovered. He received the NCAA Award of Valor in 1982 in recognition of his bravery.
As the street clears you can see wounded lying on the street. James Brady, who took the first bullet, is the closest lying face down and not moving. Shot in the forehead he would suffer brain damage and became permanently disabled. Farthest away from the camera is secret service agent Tim McCarthy and right next to the wounded Brady is District of Columbia police officer Thomas Delehanty who was shot in the back by the third of John Hinckley, Jr.’s six bullets. He would later recover from his wounds.
As the camera pans down to Brady you can see Hinkley’s gun a Rohm RG-14 .22 cal. revolver on the ground and later you hear police asking for a tissue to take the gun into evidence. Agents are screaming for a police car to take Hinkley away. Eventually, the car comes but the rear door of the squad car jams so then they have to take him to another police car further down the street. As they hustle Hinkley into the patrol car the ambulance pulls up to treat the wounded.

Mr. President, today we are all Republicans
-Head surgeon and liberal Democrat Joseph Giordano

Reagan Remembers


My speech at the Hilton Hotel was not riotously received – I think most of the audience were Democrats – but at least they gave me polite applause. After the speech, I left the hotel through a side entrance and passed a line of press photographers and TV cameras.
I was almost to the car when I heard what sounded like two or three firecrackers over to my left – just a small fluttering sound, pop, pop, pop. I turned and said, “What the hell’s that?” Just then, Jerry Parr, the head of our Secret Service unit, grabbed me by the waist and literally hurled me into the back of the limousine. I landed on my face atop the armrest across the back seat and Jerry jumped on top of me. When he landed, I felt a pain in my upper back that was unbelievable. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. “Jerry,” I said, “get off, I think you’ve broken one of my ribs.”
“The White House,” Jerry told the driver, then scrambled off me and got on the jump seat and the car took off. I tried to sit up on the edge of the seat and was almost paralyzed by pain. As I was straightening up, I had to cough hard and saw that the palm of my hand was brimming with extremely red frothy blood. “You not only broke a rib, I think the rib punctured my lung,” I said.
Jerry looked at the bubbles in the frothy blood and told the driver to head for George Washington University Hospital instead of the White House. By then my handkerchief was sopped with blood and he handed me his. Suddenly, I realized I could barely breathe. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get enough air. I was frightened and started to panic a little. I just was not able to inhale enough air. We pulled up in front of the hospital emergency entrance and I was first out of the limo and into the emergency room. A nurse was coming to meet me and I told her I was having trouble breathing. Then all of a sudden my knees turned rubbery. The next thing I knew I was lying face up on a gurney and my brand-new pinstriped suit was being cut off me, never to be worn again.
The pain near my ribs was still excruciating, but what worried me most was that I still could not get enough air, even after the doctors placed a breathing tube in my throat. Every time I tried to inhale, I seemed to get less air. I remember looking up from the gurney, trying to focus my eyes on the square ceiling tiles, and praying. Then I guess I passed out for a few minutes. I was lying on the gurney only half-conscious when I realized that someone was holding my hand. It was a soft, feminine hand. I felt it come up and touch mine and then hold on tight to it. It gave me a wonderful feeling. Even now I find it difficult to explain how reassuring, how wonderful, it felt. It must have been the hand of a nurse kneeling very close to the gurney, but I couldn’t see her. I started asking, “Who’s holding my hand? Who’s holding my hand?” When I didn’t hear any response, I said, “Does Nancy know about us?” — Reagan autobiography

Regan again lost conscious and when he again woke up he saw his wife, First Lady Nancy Reagan. Still keeping his wits he jokingly explained, “Honey, I forgot to duck” (borrowing Jack Dempsey’s line to his wife the night he was beaten by Gene Tunney for the heavyweight championship).
Shortly before surgery to remove the bullet, which barely missed his heart, Reagan remarked to the surgical team, “Please tell me you’re all Republicans.” The head surgeon, liberal Democrat Joseph Giordano, replied, “Mr. President, today we are all Republicans.”
Reagan had been scheduled to visit Philadelphia on the day of the shooting. He told a nurse, “All in all, I’d rather be in Philadelphia,” a reference to the W.C. Fields’s tagline (which was itself a reference to an old vaudeville joke among comedians: “I would rather be dead than play Philadelphia”).

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Bush – Mission Accomplished

President Bush after landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln. He made the landing with a pilot, a secret service agent and a reserve pilot.
Behind the camera: Press Pool
Where: Flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln which was 30 miles from the coast of California
Photo Summary: George W. Bush giving his famous speech announcing the end of ‘major combat operations’ in the 2003 War on Iraq.
Picture Taken: May 1, 2003

In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed
-President Bush in his speech under the banner

On May 1, 2003 George W. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln a Lockheed S-3 Viking (Navy One had been painted on the side), where he gave a speech announcing the end of major combat operations in the War on Iraq. Clearly visible in the background was a banner stating “Mission Accomplished.” Bush critics pointed to the seemingly premature declaration the war over as evidence of the arrogance and lack of planning in the Iraq War. The mission was in fact just beginning as major combat operations hadn’t ended American military casualties. After the speech casualties grew and eventually exceeded those killed before the speech. The controversy surrounding the speech and the banner in the background made video clips and pictures of the speech famous.




Where Did The Banner Come From?

As criticism mounted the White House who had in the Lincoln speech and other press releases implied that the war was over, backpedalled stating that they didn’t mean to imply that the Iraq War was over and that the Navy had, in fact, put the banner up for a totally different reason. As Navy Commander and Pentagon spokesman Conrad Chun put it, the banner referred specifically to the aircraft carrier’s 10-month deployment (which was the longest deployment of a carrier since the Vietnam War) and not the war itself “It truly did signify a mission accomplished for the crew.”
The White House claimed that the banner was requested by the crew of the ship. Afterwards, the administration and naval sources stated that the banner was the Navy’s idea, White House staff members made the banner, and it was hung by U.S. Navy personnel. White House spokesman Scott McClellan told CNN “We took care of the production of it. We have people to do those things. But the Navy actually put it up.” The White House when further pressed by TIME magazine was forced to admit that they made the banner and hung it up but still clung to the line that it had been done at the request of the crew members.

Premature

The event was criticized by many as premature — especially later as the guerrilla war began to take its toll. Subsequently, the White House released a statement saying that the sign and Bush’s visit referred to the initial invasion of Iraq. Bush’s speech noted:
“We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous.” However, the speech also said that “In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

President Bush after landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln. He made the landing with a pilot, a secret service agent and a reserve pilot.


For critics of the war, the photo-op became a symbol of the administration’s unrealistic goals and perceptions of the conflict. Anti-war activists questioned the integrity and realism of George W. Bush’s “Major combat” statement. The banner came to symbolize the irony of the President giving a victory speech only a few weeks after the beginning of a relatively long war. Many in the administration came to regret the slogan. Some even going so far as to edit the White House website’s official video of the speech that Bush made on the aircraft carrier, cropping the video to conceal the “Mission Accomplished” banner.

The Jet Landing

Before the speech, Bush made a historic jet landing on the carrier, the first by a sitting president. While the president was a former pilot in the National Guard he did not land the plane, leaving the dangerous carrier landing to Navy Cmdr. John Lussier. At the time it was criticized by opponents as an overly theatrical and expensive stunt. For instance, they pointed to the fact that the carrier was well within the range of Bush’s helicopter, and that a jet landing was not needed. Originally the White House had stated that the carrier was too far off the California coast for a helicopter landing and a jet would be needed to reach it. It was later revealed that on the day of the speech, the Lincoln was only 30 miles from shore but the administration still decided to go ahead with the jet landing. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer admitted that the president “could have helicoptered, but the plan was already in place. Plus, he wanted to see a landing the way aviators see a landing.” The Lincoln waited offshore while the President slept before it returned to its home base in Everett, Washington on May 6, 2003.

Other Famous pictures

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Nixons V sign

Behind the camera: AP Photographer
Where: White House lawn Washington D.C. America
Photo Summary: Nixon giving his famous V sign before he boards the Presidential helicopter, Army One (Until 1976 Marine Corps shared the responsibility of helicopter transport with the Army).
Picture Taken: August 9, 1974

Well, when the President does it, that means that it’s not illegal
-Nixon

Say Nixon to anyone and ask what word comes to mind, most likely they will say “Watergate”. One of the biggest scandals in America’s history, Watergate forced the 37th President of the United States, President Richard Milhous Nixon, to resign from the president’s office on August 9, 1974 (The only president ever to resign). Every other scandal since then has had the suffix “gate” added to it. The image of Nixon entering the Marine-One Helicopter door, smiling and giving his patented two-handed V-sign was for many
the last image of Nixon.

Nixon


Photo by Bob Daughtery/AP File Photo

Photo by Bob Daughtery/AP File Photo

Nixon was born Jan 9, 1913, to Francis Nixon and Hannah Milhouse Nixon in Yorba Linda, California. Raised a Quaker he lived a modest life yet still managed to excel in school earning a full-tuition scholarship from Harvard. The Harvard scholarship didn’t include living expenses, so Nixon couldn’t go and instead studied at the local Quaker school, Whittier College. He graduated in 1934 second in his class and managed to secure a full scholarship at Duke University School of Law.
He returned to California after graduation where he practiced law and met his future wife Pat, a high school teacher. The two married on June 21, 1940. When war broke out the next year he served as an officer in the Navy eventually working in the supply corps of the South Pacific. As a poker shark he built up a large fund which when the war ended, he used to fund his election campaign to get into Congress.
Nixon quickly rose through the political ranks becoming Vice President on Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1952 ticket. In 1960, he first tried to become President running against and losing to John F Kennedy. In 1962 he again lost an election this time for California Governor. He moved to New York where he worked as a high profile lawyer until 1968 when he made a political come back to not only win the Republican nomination for President but also the election itself. Beating Hubert H. Humphrey and George Wallace, Nixon became the 37th President of the United States.

Nixon Achievements

He took America off the gold standard, created many of the acronyms that we are familiar with today including the: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), even the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Treaty with Russia (SALT Treaty). The Nixon presidency normalized diplomatic relations with Communist China, talked to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin while they walked on the moon, and among other things created the Legal Services Corporation. However, the Nixon White House will always be marred by some of the Bloodiest years of the Vietnam War, secret bombings of neutral Cambodia and of course Watergate.
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Watergate


Ollie Atkins takes a different angle


On June 17, 1972, Frank Wills, a security guard working at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. called the police when he noticed suspicious activity. The police arrived and arrested five men who were discovered breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. The five men, Bernard Barker, Virgilio González, Eugenio Martínez, James W. McCord, Jr., and Frank Sturgis were discovered to have links to the CIA and the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP also known as CREEP). The men had been part of a plot to sabotage the Democratic election bid the burglary was later revealed as an attempt to repair listening devices planted in an earlier break-in. The White House at the time was able to deny any links to the men but over the course of two years two reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, were able to uncover a series of embarrassing and incriminating disclosures about Nixon’s abuse of presidential executive powers. The final straw that forced Nixon from office was a tape between the Vice President and Nixon, the recording would later be known as the “smoking gun”.

His own undoing

Secretive and often paranoid Nixon had taken to tape recording all activities in the White House. These tapes would later be used against Nixon when a transcript of a recording made in the Oval Office, the so-called “smoking gun” tape was released on August 5, 1974. It showed that on June 17, 1972, six days after the Watergate break-in, Nixon had discussed using the CIA to block the FBI’s investigation of the burglary. This recorded conversation directly linked “Tricky Dick” to the burglary something he always denied. Seeing the writing on the wall and seeking to avoid a long drawn out impeachment trial, three days later Nixon gave a televised resignation speech and on August 9, 1974, boarded the Army One Helicopter. Just before entering he turned back to the White House and Press and gave his famous smile and V-sign.

Hunter S. Thompson on the scene

In with the Press Club was reporter Hunter S. Thompson who gave this account:

I walked outside to the Rose Garden, where a big olive-drab helicopter was perched on the lawn, about 100 feet out from the stairs. The rain had stopped and a long, red carpet was laid out on the wet grass from the White House door to the helicopter. I eased through the crowd of photographers and walked out, looking back at the White House, where Nixon was giving his final address to a shocked crowd of White House staffers. I examined the aircraft very closely, and I was just about to climb into it when I heard a loud rumbling behind me; I turned around just in time to see Richard and Pat coming toward me, trailing their daughters and followed Closely by Gerald Ford and Betty. Their faces were grim and they were walking very slowly; Nixon had a glazed smile on his face, not looking at anybody around him, and walked like a wooden Indian full of Thorazine.

…I lit a cigarette and watched him climb the steps to the door of the helicopter. . . Then he spun around very suddenly and threw his arms straight up in the famous twin-victory signal; his eyes were still glazed, but he seemed to be looking over the heads of the crowd at the White House. Nobody was talking. A swarm of photographers rushed the plane as Nixon raised his arms– but his body had spun around too fast for his feet, and as his arms went up I saw him losing his balance. The grimace on his face went slack, then he bounced off the door and stumbled into the cockpit. … The helicopter went straight up and hovered for a moment, then swooped down toward the Washington Monument and then angled up into the fog.
Richard Nixon was gone.

Retirement

After leaving by helicopter Nixon fly flew from the South Grounds of the White House to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. He later recounted, “As the helicopter moved on to Andrews I found myself thinking not of the past but of the future. What could I do now?…” At Andrews, Nixon boarded the Air Force One Jet that flew him to El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, California and then to his new home, San Clemente, California. While flying to California to start his self-imposed exile back in the East Room of the White House, Chief Justice Burger swore in Ford as the 38th President of the United States. When news reached the pilot of Air Force One, he radioed in to change the plane’s call sign from “Air Force One” to “SAM 26000″ as the plane no longer carried the president.
In his home state of California Nixon over the years with carefully timed releases of interviews and books slowly worked his way back into the Washington political scene, even visiting the White House. By his death on April 22, 1994, he was seen as a respected elder statesman and gave counsel to both Republican and Democratic governments.

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Zapruder Film

Behind the camera: Abraham Zapruder
Where: Elm Street, Dallas Texas, USA
Photo Summary: John F Kennedy after he is shot. Jackie Kennedy climbed onto the trunk in an effort to grab a piece of John’s skull. Agent Hill seen jumping onto the back of the car later testified that she said, ‘I have a piece of his brain in my hand.’
Picture Taken: November 22, 1963

On November 22, 1963, the nation was in shock as news spread throughout the country, someone had shot the president; someone had shot John F Kennedy. While Americans prayed and hoped that Kennedy could pull through, Abraham Zapruder who had filmed the bullets slamming into JFK’s skull had no such false hopes, “…I saw his head explode like a firecracker. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. There’s no way he could still be alive.”

Just like any day

Map of President's parade route


People woke on Nov 22 with no idea of the anguish that would play out that day. Abraham Zapruder had woken disappointed that the weather was cloudy and overcast. JFK was going to be doing one of his motorcade parades through Dallas and he had wanted to film the parade. He had bought the top of the line Model 414 PD Bell & Howell Zoomatic Director Series Camera, Serial number AS13486; with Varamat 9 to 27mm F1.8 lens the year before. For its day it was quite a piece of technology with an electric eye, spring wind indicator, and varying speeds of 1, 16 and 48. The camera used 8mm film with 25 feet being able to be shot at a time.
Abraham Zapruder worked at his Jennifer Juniors, Inc. which made women’s clothing. In 1963 the company operated out of 4th and 5th floors of the Dal-Tex Building at 501 Elm close to where the president’s motorcade was to pass that day. He arrived without his camera but an office worker, Lilian Rodgers, convinced him to go back home and get it because the weather had cleared up and it looked to be a beautiful day.

Taking the picture

To get a better view of the passing President, Abraham Zapruder headed down to the parade route with another one of his employees, Marilyn Sitzman. He shot some footage to make sure the camera was working properly and noticed that he would have a better vantage point if he got on top of a concrete block located on the now infamous grassy knoll. Once up Zapruder’s vertigo kicked in and he asked Marilyn to come with him in case he started to get dizzy while filming. While waiting for the president to come he and Marilyn are photographed by a number of journalists and amateur cameramen also waiting for the president.
At the Warren Commission Zapruder recounted what happened next:

I started shooting–when the motorcade started coming in, I believe I started and wanted to get it coming in from Houston Street… Well, as the car came in line almost–I believe it was almost in line. I was standing up [on the concrete block] and I was shooting through a telephoto lens, which is a zoom lens and … I heard the first shot and I saw the President lean over and grab himself like this [Zapruder holds his left chest area]… For a moment I thought it was, you know, like you say, “Oh, he got me,” … I [didn’t] believe the President is going to make jokes like this, but before I had a chance to organize my mind, I heard a second shot and then I saw his head opened up and the blood and everything came out and I started–I can hardly talk about it [Zapruder breaks down crying] … I thought I heard two [shots], it could be three because to my estimation I thought he was hit on the second–I really don’t know. … I never even heard a third shot … after the second shot … I started yelling, “They killed him, they killed him,” and I just felt that somebody had ganged up on him and I was still shooting the pictures until he got under the underpass–I don’t even know how I did it.
And then, I didn’t even remember how I got down from that abutment there, but there I was, I guess, and I was walking toward–back toward my office and screaming, “They killed him, they killed him,” and the people that I met on the way didn’t even know what happened and they kept yelling, “What happened, what happened, what happened?” It seemed that they had heard a shot but they didn’t know exactly what had happened as the car sped away, and I kept on just yelling, “They killed him, they killed him, they killed him…

Desperate to Develop

Harry McCormick, Dallas Morning News reporter, arrived soon after the shooting and after talking to those milling around quickly determined that because of his location Zapruder would have filmed the whole thing from a great vantage point. McCormick tracked him down and tried to talk to him but Zapruder said that he would only talk to federal investigators. McCormick knowing the scoop he would have if he could get the footage, set off to find an agent so that he would be able to pitch buying the film from Zapruder again.
McCormack was able to make contact with Agent-in-Charge of the Dallas Secret Service field office, Forrest Sorrels. An emotional Zapruder quickly agreed to supply agent Sorrels with a copy of his footage to help the investigation but got a promise from Sorrels that it only be used for investigation purposes and not shown to any media. McCormick again offered to pay for the footage but Zapruder turned him down already thinking that he could get a higher price.
Then McCormick, Sorrels, Zapruder, and Erwin Schwartz, Zapruder’s business partner went to the ABC affiliate, WFAA-TV station in hopes they could develop and copy the film. WFAA-TV couldn’t process the film and missed probably the scoop of the century but was able to get Zapruder to do a live on-air interview about what he saw at 2:10 pm less than 2 hours after the shooting.

Developing at the Kodak Lab

Bert Schipp, the chief photographer at WFAA-TV, called a Kodak lab and made sure they could process Zapruder’s film. By this time a Dallas police car had been arranged and it escorted the trio of Zapruder, Schwartz, and Sorrels to the Kodak lab. Phil Chamberlain a lab technician met them on their arrival and they quickly processed the film, with Zapruder looking on. The original was labelled with the number 0183 by lab tech Kathryn Kirby. Zapruder and staff viewed it once and seeing the importance of the footage decided not to view it again until copies where made.

The copies

Went forward with considerable violence
-Dan Rather commenting on Kennedy’s head but failing to mention the famous backward motion

Since the Kodak lab didn’t have means to copy the film Zapruder was directed to go to Jamieson Films in Dallas. There he made three unprocessed copies and returned to the Kodak Lab to get them developed. The copies were given lab ID numbers 0185, 0186 and 0187. The footage was only 26 seconds long, with 486 individual frames, filmed at 18.3 frames per second. The original was split into 8mm and viewed by Zapruder, and a number of lab technicians present. They watched in silence with a collective gasp when the bullet struck Kennedy’s head.
Agent Sorrels had left earlier when he heard that Oswald had been arrested but Zapruder was able to track him down around 10:00 pm and handed over two copies of the film. Secret Service Agent Max Phillips in Dallas shipped one of the copies to Secret Service Chief Rowley in Washington, D.C. with the note, “Mr. Zapruder is in custody of the ‘master’ film.” The other is handed over to the FBI who also ships it to Washington to be copied.

Enter LIFE

Earlier in the day, Richard Stolley from LIFE magazine had arrived from LA. He was on a plane as soon as he heard of the attempt on the president’s life. Setting up at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas he learns from LIFE stringer reporter, Patsy Swank, that footage of the assassination exists and was in Zapruder’s possession. Stolley immediately started calling the Zapruder house in 15min intervals.
After handing over the two copies to the secret service at around 10:00 pm Zapruder drives around aimlessly trying to absorb the day’s events and arrived home at 11:00 pm. It was at this time Richard Stolley called and tried to set up a viewing of the film. Zapruder, tired, was able to put off the viewing until the next day and set up a 9:00 am meeting at his Jennifer Juniors office.

Richard Stolley arrived an hour early and was joined by a number of Secret Service agents who wanted to see the film as theirs were shipped off to Washington to be copied. With Zapruder manning the projector the small crowd watched the film, replaying it as more reporters arrive. Stolley seeing that he had to work fast before others got the film was able to convince Zapruder to sell the print rights for $50,000. Stolley left with the original and quickly sends it to Chicago where the LIFE editorial staff was gathered to prepare the new November 26th edition. The original edition was stopped in the presses when news of the assassination reached Chicago. Managing editor George Hunt ordered the move costing LIFE almost a million dollars. Publisher Henry Luce who was initially outraged at the cost said later it was the best million he had ever spent.
While making copies of the film and preparing black and white shots for the new LIFE magazine photo technicians damaged some of the frames the original footage, slicing it in two places.

Life seeks to Suppress

Obtain all rights to the film and withhold it from public viewing
-LIFE executive C.D Jackson

A copy was sent to NY where LIFE executive C.D Jackson was so disturbed by the footage he ordered Stolley to return to Zapruder and get full rights to the film. In 1973 Stolley would recount: C.D. Jackson “was so upset by the head-wound sequence that he proposed the company obtain all rights to the film and withhold it from public viewing at least until emotions had calmed.” He later changed his story in 1992, “All decisions regarding the use or non-use of the Zapruder film were made by LIFE’s editors, not by anyone on the publishing side”
This stoked the conspiracy researchers, as C.D. Jackson was a former member of the US military intelligence. Many claim the Zapruder film to be altered in some way to cover up evidence of other shooters and the President’s limo stopping. They point to strange anomalies in the footage and that LIFE tried for such a long time to stop anyone from viewing the footage. However, Zapruder’s film wasn’t the only shoot of the assassination, with at least seven others present at the time filming. The two other publicly released films confirm the events of Nov 22 and that the anomalies can easily be explained by film limitation of the camera’s available in the 60’s. Even though LIFE executives tried to stop the public from seeing the film they themselves ordered copies for private showings.

Stolley returned to Zapruder and was able to purchase all rights for the footage for $150,000 to be made in six annual payments of $25,000. The first $25,000 payment Zapruder donated to the family of murdered Dallas Policeman J.D. Tippit. Oswald had shot Tippit just prior to being arrested. Zapruder gave the impression to the media that the $25,000 was the price LIFE magazine bought his footage for and not just the first installment.

Young Dan Rather

A young Dan Rather was able to see the Zapruder footage and later narrated the film to CBS national television coverage, claiming that he saw the President’s head “went forward with considerable violence.” He failed to mention the backward motion made famous in the Oliver Stone movie, JFK. His omission seemed to confirm that the single shooter theory with just Oswald firing from the rear. When the Zapruder film became public, he was forced to apologize saying it was “an honest error.”

The Groden copies

In government circles, copies of the film circulated often copies of copies sometimes many generations old. When the Warren Commission studied the film the next year they had difficulties with the quality and clarity of the prints. In Feb 1964, LIFE lab assistant Herbert Orth brought the original film to a meeting of government officials and volunteered to make slides of all the frames. The original was sent out to a New Jersey photo lab where photo lab technician Robert Groden made a bootleg copy. He also was able to remove the amateur shakiness of the original by re-framing it. This improved version was far superior to the copies the government held but he placed it in a bank vault out of fear he would be arrested for making a bootleg copy.

After the Warren Commission finished its report, footage and slides were entered into the National archives. Requests to get LIFE to release footage by private researchers and other media outlets are denied. It wasn’t until 1969 that Jim Garrison subpoenaed LIFE for his trial of Clay Shaw (later made famous in the movie, JFK) that the public saw the movie. Lax security at the trial allowed the film to be copied and bootleg’s started to circulate around the country. At the same trial Zapruder is called to testify, the next year on Aug 30, 1970, Abraham Zapruder died of carcinoma in Dallas.

In 1975 Groden started to show his enhanced version of the Zapruder film. In March 1975 Geraldo Rivera on his show Goodnight America convinced ABC executives to show Groden’s film. This was the first time most in America have seen the backward motion of Kennedy’s head and it caused a sensation. Feeding off the public outcry congressman Thomas Downing and others introduce a resolution in Congress that would later lead to the creation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, HSCA. The committee went on to investigate the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr concluding that both murders were the result of a conspiracy.

Life sells the Film

A New Look at the Zapruder Film
-The tag line for the new DVD released by the Zapruder family

The increased publicity of the film and public outcry at LIFE for refusing to allow anyone to view the originals forced TIME-LIFE to sell the film and rights to the footage to the family for the symbolic amount of $1. The original and other material that TIME-LIFE owns is handed over to the National Archives with limited access. The family allowed anyone to study the film but if it was used for commercial purposes they are charged a fee. Disputes between the Zapruder family and those wanting to use the footage increase with several lawsuits being filled. The pressure was increased when lawsuits arguing that because of the importance of the footage, a national treasure, that no one should own the rights.

The film hits the markets





In 1991, the Zapruder family tried to sell video copies of the footage. This was quickly halted by legal action. In 1997, the film footage and related slides, copies, transparencies are made “assassination documents” under the JFK Act. Disagreement over how much the Zapruder family is to be paid for the material dragged on until 2000. The government valued the material, as worth 1.4 million dollars but the family wanted $30,000,000. Finally, in 1999 an arbitration board ruled the value to be $16 million dollars. This does not include the copyright of the film, which is retained by the family, which they use to distribute a DVD called Image of an assassination. The DVD costs $20 a copy and is 45min film long. Image of an assassination claims to be, “A New Look at the Zapruder Film” and offers more information and a highly improved version of the footage.



Donation to the Sixth Floor Museum

In 2000 the Zapruder family donated their collection of Zapruder film material to the Sixth Floor Museum in what used to be the Texas School Book Depository building. In addition to the following material the family also handed over the film rights to the Museum.
Among the items handed over by the Zapruder family were:

  • The only privately held first day, first-generation print of the Zapruder film.
  • Numerous film copies—in a variety of formats including 8mm, 16 mm, and 35 mm. Some in full color and some in black and white. These copy prints and negatives of the Zapruder film were apparently utilized by Time-Life for publication layout and internally for reference.
  • Two complete sets of 4×5 color transparencies–these are LIFE 1st generation copies of each frame of the original film as they existed in 1963/1964 before any fading and damage appeared.
  • 8×10 glossy color prints of Zapruder film frames—these are LIFE prints of each frame. Again, they show each frame as they existed in 1963/1964 before any fading and damage appeared.
  • The original is still owned by the American government and presently in the Kennedy Collection at the National Archives at College Park. The National Archives allows copies to be made for personal use but to publish in any other way requires permission from the copyright holders, the Sixth Floor Museum.

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