Perspectives

Today, I want to talk about differing perspectives… using a rather morbid case study of two images of the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald.

(Obviously, trigger warning for guns, death, violence etc).

First, a bit of background for those who aren’t as down with political assassinations as I am. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Two days later, during a jail transfer in Dallas, he was murdered on live TV by nightclub owner, Jack Ruby. I could write a book on various conspiracy theories of what really happened (no really, I could). How did Oswald spend his time in the USSR and Cuba? Was Jack Ruby really just an upset, patriotic citizen? But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I want to talk about two famous images taken at that moment.

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The first captures the moment of impact, and won the Pulitzer Prize and much acclaim (as well as wealth from royalties!) for photographer Robert H. Jackson.

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It’s this photo that I’m more interested in, though. Sixth tenths of a second before, Jack Beers from the Dallas Morning News thought he had captured the assassination and was disappointed when the film was developed to find that he’d snapped too early. According to family and friends, he never recovered from what he considered to be a letdown by fate.

Whilst both pictures are fascinating and capture a moment in time, I’m not quite sure why the second photo seems to be considered inferior. I love the fact that no one seems to notice Ruby, he could simply be an overzealous reporter if it wasn’t for the gun in hand. It’s the moment before everything changes.

I guess what I’m getting at are two ideas about perspective. It shows that a split second can change lives – a “before” and “after” if you will. But it’s also a reminder of how we all see things differently. A lot of people seemed to think that Jackson’s photo deserved the Pulitzer whilst Beers deserved pity. But having a read of forums and blogs, people differ on how each photo makes them feel and I think that diversity of opinion and emotion is important.

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