Friday, July 26, 2013

Paul Fusco: RFK by Paul Fusco

I remember the day, June 8, 1968, sitting in front of a black and white television in Texas, watching a slow moving train carrying the body of Robert Kennedy from New York to Washington, DC, for internment near his brother at Arlington National Cemetery. The funeral train was many hours behind schedule, slowed in the interest of safety of the people lining the route. Already there had been an accident in which two had died, struck by a train that they did not see on another line.

I remember mostly helicopter views of the train as I watched the TV coverage. As Walter Cronkite and others spoke, cameras must have also shown people waiting along the tracks and more people waiting in Washington for the procession. All in black and white. I do not remember seeing what Look photographer Paul Fusco saw from his perch on the train - hundreds of thousands, maybe a million people standing by the tracks, on top of cars, on walls, out windows, and in fields. Many of his colorful photos are now published in Paul Fusco: RFK.

Turning the pages of Paul Fusco: RFK, you will see 1968 America. If you are old enough, you may see yourself, or someone much like you, among the people black and white, young and old, holding babies, offering flowers, taking photos with a variety of cameras. On page 111, in front of a red bicycle with a banana seat, is a slightly out-of-focus boy wearing black glasses and a shiny watch. That looks like me. To his left (our right) is another boy, who looks much like my friend Pete Midkiff. Did they ride the bike together?

Looking at the people, you can tell they came for different reasons, for they display a wide range of emotions. Some are waving cheerfully to whoever is waving from the train, which was loaded with Kennedy's family, friends, and supporters and many dignitaries (who were also displaying a wide range of emotions, according to the text). Some were obviously in mourning or shocked. As the daylight failed and the train entered the city, the images become blurred and confusing, which seems fitting for the day.

Paul Fusco: RFK is the third and most comprehensive of Fusco's books about that day, including 120 photos, as well as essays by Norman Mailer, Evan Thomas, and Vicki Goldberg. Fusco wrote an Afterword that helps explain his work. Allow two or three hours to look through this moving book.

Fusco, Paul. Paul Fusco: RFK. Aperture, n.d. 223p. ISBN 9781597110792.

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