Famed Avedon Kennedy Photos Taken 50 Years Ago Today

Posted by David Ozanich — 3 Jan 2011


50 years ago today, Richard Avedon showed up in Palm Beach, Florida with his Rollieflex cameras to take the only formal portraits of John F. Kennedy and his family between his election and inauguration. The Picture Show blog has a selection of the photos which originally appeared in Harper's Bazaar.

Avedon told a Newsweek reporter in 1961, "When I took Caroline's picture with her father, he was dictating memos to his secretary. ... When I'd ask him to look around, he'd stop dictating. But the moment I finished, he'd start in where he left off. I've never seen such a display of mental control in my life."

Activity buzzed around the rest of the family, too. Mr. Kenneth had come from New York City to do Jackie's hair. Secret Service and Kennedy friends milled about. The Oleg Cassini dress that Jackie eventually wore on Jan. 19 to a pre-inaugural concert was not quite finished, so the dress makers were there, too. John Jr. was just 5 1/2 weeks old. Rose Kennedy fretted that Caroline, then 3 years old, would get her dress dirty. Avedon's plain background pushes all of that noise away, creating photographs that allow for a privileged moment to engage with the sitters as they are about to embark on a world-changing journey.

Many of the photos are on view at the National Museum of American History until the end of February. The curator spoke to ABC's "Good Morning, America" about the photos:

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