Photoscrutiny 2 : The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy in
Dealey Plaza,Dallas, Texas, on November 22nd 1963.
The ability of images to reconstruct the locale.
How many shots were fired ?
When were they fired ?
Who fired them ?
From where were they fired ?
Why were they fired ?
Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President
Kennedy US Govt. Printing Office, Washington DC 1964 xii; The FBI carried
out more than 25,000 interviews and re-interviews; the Secret Service
carried out more than 1500 interviews. Given the extent of the mass
media (newspapers, magazines, TV and radio, and the beginning of individuals'
own film making, what is permanently available in imagery of any one
event ? What other events have occurred and have been so thoroughly
documented in visual form ?
Quote 1. "It was 12.30pm., Central Standard time, when the first
gunfire burst upon the President's motor procession as it moved slowly
down Elm Street, having just turned off Houston street. President Kennedy's
hands reached for his neck. The moment marked the start of one of the
most intensively studied few moments in history, a tiny span of time,
forever frozen by film." Hurt beneath.
Quote 2 . "It was a balmy, sunny noon as we motored through downtown
Dallas behind President Kennedy. The procession cleared the centre of
the business district and turned into the handsome highway that wound
through what appeared to be a park. I was riding in the so-called White
House press pool car, a telephone company vehicle equipped with a mobile
radio-telephone. I was in the front seat between a driver from the telephone
company and Malcolm Kilduff, acting White Hose Press secretary for the
President's Texas tour . Three other pool reporters were wedged in the
back seat. Suddenly we hears three loud almost painfully loud cracks.
The first sounded as if might have been a large firecracker. But the
second and third were unmistakable. Gunfire. The President's car, possibly
as much as 150 or 200 yards ahead, seemed to falter briefly. We saw
a flurry of activity in the Secret Service follow up car behind the
Chief Executive's bubbletop limousine. Next in line was the car bearing
Vice President Lyndon B.Johnson. Behind that another follow up car bearing
agents assigned to the Vice President's protection. We were behind that
car.. Our car stood still for probably only a few seconds, but it seemed
like a lifetime. One sees history explode before one's eyes and for
even the most trained observer, there is a limit to what one can comprehend.
From "Four Days" - see beneath
Quote 3. "The most important evidence about what happened in Dealey
Plaza is, with little dispute, the famous home movie made by Abraham
Zapruder. The film was shot from the President's right, as the limousine
moved along Elm Street. It shows almost the entire period of the shooting,
with the exception of a few moments a street sign obscures the image
of the limousine..... Within the twenty four hours of the assassination,
LIFE magazine had acquired the film from Zapruder, eventually paying
him $150,000. More than a decade passed before the public was allowed
to see the Zapruder film. No one had access to the film other than Life
personnel , although the film was made available for all official investigative
purposes. The Warren Commission recognised the tremendous value of the
film and used it as a time clock in efforts to describe what happened
at Dealey Plaza. The commission also published many of the individual
frames of the film. ... [that it is clear that the shot came from the
right, not as the Commission and LIFE determined, from the left] The
Warren Commission handled the matter of the left rearward head-snap
by not mentioning it in this report or any of its volumes of evidence.
The commission did publish these frames from the Zapruder film but,
in one of the most shocking examples of `mistakes', the key frames showing
the impact of the head shot were transposed . With the frames so reversed,
the certain perception of the front-to-rear shot is removed. The FBI
took responsibility for the faulty sequence, and in 1965 Director J.Edgar
Hoover called the transposition, ` a printing error' ...." Hurt
Quote 4 "How could the president's death automatically benefit
the authors of the murder plot. ? It is clear certainly that they employed
Lee Harvey Oswald for the purpose of increasing tension between United
States and Cuba, and above all the Soviet Union. This must be regarded
as a maximum objective, from which they were willing to be forced back
into a prepared position that the murderer was just a solitary madman
- though of Marxist leanings." Thomas Buchanan `Who killed Kennedy'
1964 in Davis beneath Quote 5 "It is highly significant that, after
Oswald was arrested, you learned the facts. That proves that the Communist
Conspiracy's control over the United States is not yet complete. ...
It is quite true that the Communist Conspiracy, through the management
of great broadcasting systems and news agencies, through the many criminals
lodged in the press..... has a control over our channels of communication
that seems to us virtually total. As was to be expected, a few months
after the shot was fired in Dallas, the vermin, probably in obedience
to general or specific orders issued in advance of the event, began
to screech out their diseased hatred of the American people... "
Revilo P.Oliver, "Marxmanship in Dallas", from Davis beneath.
A The Function of Photography
1. reportage ; newspapers; magazines; television; newsreels.
3. mug shot
4. forensic etc
B Who Sees ?
1. Eye Witness testimony
First hand accounts ; There were 178 people interviewed who had been
in Dealey Plaza itself ; with onlookers on the overpass, county court
cells, office windows and most crowded along Houston.
Secondary testimony , relatives and friends, posthumously published
Witnesses recorded by Zapruder include;
On the Triangle, Charles Brehm and son; John and Mary Chism; Mary Woodward
and friends journalists ;
William and Gayle Newman; Jean Newman; Jean Pain and Mary Moorman
On the knoll; Emmett Hudson, gardener; Gordon Arnold soldier on leave
, Abraham Zapruder, garment manufacturer and Marilyn Sitzman (his secretary)
In the railway yards - Lee Bowers
The Single Image (the photograph)
James Altgens - prof. photographer UPI on Elm front of TBD
Mary Moorman - amateur green triangle Polaroid of point of shot
Hugh Betzner - amateur, old camera Houston/Elm ran up grassy knoll
Philip Wills - amateur, soldier PergPool Elm assassination and TBD
Norman Similas - amateur, Canad. south of Elm negatives lost
The Moving Image (the film)
Abe Zapruder - 8mm Bell & Howell at the wall of pergola - 22secs
of film, bt LIFE Magazine. 8mm with telephoto N of Elm first seen publically
Marilyn Sitzman - holding Zapruder/camera steady
Mary Muchmore - amateur green triangle view of grassy knoll from S Elm
Robert Hughes amateur - 8mm film Main/Houston view of procession to
Charles Bronson ,, - Houston/Elm TBD 6 mins before the event
Beverly Oliver amateur - Super 8 Yashica green 10 feet the shot, film
confiscated, not seen
Thomas Atkins - White House official ph. 6 cars behind ; The Last Two
Days (doc.film) 16mm Arriflex S
Orville Nix amateur - green triangle to the grassy knoll, car departs
4. and there is Computer Simulation
C Photography as an Objective medium
1. Intervention , the photograph enhanced, colorified, seeing the desired
2. Distortion , a deliberate blurring of the image (Zapruder in Life
3. Falsification , the montage of images from separate sources, Oswald
and the rifle
4. Publication , supplemented by text (caption, headline,quotation etc)
, the Zapruder stills printed in reverse order in the Warren report.
The cropping of the image, the prominence in the sequence of the publication
Wendell Berry verse, Ben Shahn illust and design, November Twenty
Six Nineteen Hundred Sixty Three , Braziller New York 1964.;
Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President
John F.Kennedy ,United States Printing Office, Washington USA
Anthony Summers, Conspiracy, Who Killed President Kennedy ?
, Gollancz/Fontana London 1980
William Manchester, The Death of a President ,Michael
Joseph London 1967
Edward J.Epstein, Legend The Secret Life of Lee Harvey Oswald,
McGraw Hill New York 1978
Michael Kurtz, Crime of the Century, The Kennedy Assassination
from a Historian's Perspective ,Harvester Press Brighton 1982
Gary Trudeau, Doonesbury ,Guardian November 1993.
United Press International and American Heritage Magazine, FOUR
DAYS ,American Heritage New York 1964.
Henry Hurt, Reasonable Doubt, An Investigation into the Assassination
of John F.Kennedy , Sidgwick and Jackson London 1986.
David Brion Davis, The Fear of Conspiracy, Images of Un-American
Subversion, Cornell Ithaca London 1971,
David Lifton, JFK Best Evidence , Polygram 1990
Nigel Turner, The Men Who Killed Kennedy ,Polygram/Central
TV 2 tapes 1989
Oliver Stone dir., JFK 1991
Brian de Palma dir., Blow Out 1981
Brian de Palma dir., Greetings 1968
Alan Pakula dir., The Parallax View ,1976
Chris Plumley, The Day the Dream Died,1983 (Dispatches
NO.1 THE DEMAGOGUE