Magnum Photos 1968

 

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Exhibition - Los Angeles

RFK Funeral Train

On a Saturday afternoon on June 8, 1968, Magnum photographer Paul Fusco accompanied the body of Robert F. Kennedy as it made its way from New York City to its final resting place in Arlington Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. Transported by train, the coffin was placed in the last of twenty-two cars and elevated so that it was visible through the large observation windows. However, it was what lay outside the train that interested Fusco most: the track-side mourners who— silent, curious and patient—waited to pay their respects.

“They were mostly ordinary Americans: young parents, retirees, nuns, men in suits, teenagers in shorts. Some waved happily. Others wailed in grief. Some stood quietly, hand to heart. Others snapped pictures. Some looked plainly curious. Others hoisted placards of farewell. Some brought flowers, many only themselves. Boy Scouts waved the Stars and Stripes. A woman knelt, her hands touching in prayer.” (Margarett Loke, New York Times)

A uniquely profound record, RFK FUNERAL TRAIN is an oblique chronicle of the tragedy and trauma of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination. In tribute to RFK's raw empathy and his determination to make lives better across the social spectrum, hundreds of thousands of people stood patiently in the searing heat to pay their respects. It was one of those rare instance during the Civil Rights era that showed a nation coming together, when both black and white shared a respect for a leader whom they believed could have healed the country's wounds.

In vivid color, Fusco's study provides a unique exploration of a nation coming to terms with the loss of a president who never was. It presents a snapshot of a broad range of American citizens and conveys the depth of civic feeling engendered by the tragedy. With their strange blend of valediction and voyeurism, these pictures capture a decisive moment in American history, pictures in which the subject is forcibly absent. In an equally profound way, RFK FUNERAL TRAIN offers a salient and instructive contrast to the diminishing levels of affection that the public holds towards the political classes of today.

The opening will coincide with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

Dates: 5 June - 5 July 2008

Location: M+B, 612 North Almont Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90069

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