November 27, 2013 / 7:51 PM / 6 years ago

JFK photo exhibit captures Kennedys in public, private moments

NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 50 photographs of John F. Kennedy, offering a behind-the-scenes record of JFK’s private and public life during his presidential campaign and first year in the White House, comprise “My Kennedy Years,” a new exhibit of signed and dated photographs by Jacques Lowe.

The new, permanent eternal flame is shown at the gravesite (L) of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia October 29, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

The exhibit, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death, runs through January 31, 2014, at the Westwood Gallery in New York.

Lowe became the official photographer of Kennedy’s presidential campaign and was his personal photographer in The White House.

The exhibit draws on material from Lowe’s personal photo archives and previously unpublished interviews and oral histories the photographer took part in before his death in 2001.

Margarite Almeida, co-owner of the Westwood Gallery, said the photographs captured the relentless presidential campaign and intimate family moments that shaped the public’s view of the Kennedy family.

“Jacques was given unprecedented access to the private and professional life of one of the most celebrated leaders of the 20th century, as well as members of his family,” Almeida said.

The photos show Kennedy speaking to increasingly large and enthusiastic crowds during his 1959-60 campaign for the Democratic nomination and the presidency.

During Kennedy’s first year in the White House, Lowe captured him conferring with French President Charles de Gaulle and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

“There’s a narrative visitors will absorb,” Almeida said.

Lowe’s images also show contemplative moments of Kennedy by himself and joyful ones with his family.

One, taken in August 1960, depicts Kennedy and his wife with their daughter Caroline, who is clutching her mother’s pearl necklace and putting it in her mouth.

Another shows Kennedy speaking with his nephew, Robert Kennedy Jr., then six years old, on the plane returning to Boston after the Democratic convention in Los Angeles.

Lowe took more than 40,000 photographs over the years he spent with the Kennedys. He initially photographed Kennedy’s younger brother Robert and impressed their father Joseph Kennedy so much that the Kennedy patriarch asked Lowe to take pictures of his older son.

Born in Germany in 1930 to a Russian-Jewish mother and a German father, Lowe spent World War Two with his mother in hiding. They moved to the United States in 1949.

Lowe was inspired by the 1940 U.S. film “Foreign Correspondent,” to pursue a career in photojournalism. He worked as an assistant to several photographers until he won a Life magazine contest and set out on his own.

After the assassination of his friend Robert Kennedy in 1968, Lowe moved to France, saying he could not deal with such tragedies anymore. He returned to the United States 18 years later.

A few months after his death, the 40,000 negatives he had stored in a fireproof safe in the World Trade Center were lost in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“Only 10 of the negatives - out on loan at the time - survived, along with a few hundred photographs that Jacques had stored in boxes in his loft in Tribeca,” Almeida said, referring to a neighborhood in downtown New York.

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. recently revived some of the photos from the negatives that were lost by scanning Lowe’s contact sheets, which he had kept separate from the negatives.

“By erasing the grease pencil marks that Jacques used to identify his selections, they were able to rediscover many of the lost photos,” Almeida said.

Reporting by Ellen Freilich; editing by Patricia Reaney, G Crosse

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