John F. Kennedy’s death was officially announced at 1:33pm Texas time on November 22, 1963, 50 years ago today. We present here, for the first time, an array of portraits that Jim Marshall captured shortly after the announcement hit the streets.
On that Friday afternoon, Jim was in the Time-Life Building at Rockefeller Center (50th Street & 6th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan) when the horrible news of the assassination became headlines. What was he doing there that day at the center of one of the busiest corners in America’s melting pot?
Maybe he was at Time-Life doing what most struggling young photojournalists did back then, comparing notes with other photogs and magazine art directors, cadging free coffee, showing his latest stuff, shmoozing for work, and generally hanging around waiting for something to happen. And then it did.
It’s no secret that Jim was a man of tumultous emotions and polarized energies. In addition to his news instinct, it seems likely that keeping the Leica to his face and taking these indelible images may have been one of the only ways he could deal with the moment.
In 1987, Jim gave me four prints of the astounding work he did that afternoon when he rushed out past the historic murals in the Time-Life lobby, through the revolving glass doors to those teeming streets to try and capture in photographs the dawning of a nation’s collective grief. I love these prints and yet I can’t bring myself to put them on our walls, but we thought it would be fitting to present them here today along with a shot of the way Jim looked back then.