Pictures from a Train

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I have been holding off on writing about the upcoming exhibition at my gallery - Paul Fusco’s RFK Funeral Train: Rediscovered – as the New York Times Magazine had an exclusive. But this Sunday they ran six pages on the work together with an excellent audio-visual piece on their website, so now I’m free to blog.

To put it simply and truly, these pictures are my favorite body of work in photography. They were taken on June 8, 1968, from inside the funeral train that carried Robert Kennedy’s body from New York to Washington so that he could be buried beside his brother at Arlington. The photo-
grapher Paul Fusco had been assigned the story by LOOK Magazine and on what turned out to be an unusually hot Saturday, close to a million people – black and white, rich and poor, young and old, singly and in groups - spontaneously came out to pay their respects to the man who had inspired so many Americans.

I first came across the pictures when I was Director of Magnum Photos in New York (Paul Fusco is a Magnum photographer) and was overwhelmed by their emotion, by the very American-ness of the pictures, the skill with which they were captured, the modernity of the color aesthetic, and the surprisingly uplifting response to such a tragic event. Fusco took over 2,000 pictures in the eight hours it took to make the usually four-hour journey and from this group I had the daunting but privileged task of selecting 20 images that we ultimately printed as a set of 27 inch wide cibachrome prints.

To compound the challenge and the pleasure, over the period of a year and a half that Paul and I worked on the project, we kept discovering new troves of the pictures including close to a thousand lost transparencies located by Lesley Martin of Aperture that had been sent to the Library of Congress when LOOK Magazine folded in 1971. (Aperture will be publishing a new book of the work in September.)

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but I’ll also tell you the only area where Paul and I disagreed. For Paul, the event and the photographs represented the end of hope. To me they represent the indomitability of the American spirit.

One final note – the opening of this exhibition is Wednesday, June 11 from 6 to 8 p.m.. I would love to welcome all readers of this blog who can make it to attend the artist's reception of this extraordinary show.

Danziger Projects is at 521 West 26th Street. New York City. New York.


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