John F. Kennedy / Flora
Copyright permission courtesy of Corbis-Bettmann

Robert Flora
American, September 9, 1960
Gelatin silver print
6 11/16 x 7 in.
Questions for Teaching

• Where are these people?

• Look carefully from the foreground to background. What are some of the people holding in their hands?

• Look closely at the people that make up the crowd. What are people in crowd reacting to? How are they reacting?

• What can we tell about the central figure? What do you see that supports your conclusions? (He is popular, and is greeted with support from the crowd. The man in the image is then-presidential candidate Senator John F. Kennedy.)

• How else has the photographer emphasized the central figure? (While the image seems to be a snapshot, it is actually a carefully, composed image. Flora framed the shot to create a cross-pattern of heads that terminate in the center, focusing our attention on Senator Kennedy. He also frames the presidential nominee against the dark uniform of the police officer, making him stand out from the crowd in what becomes a series of contrasts in the black and white image.)

• How do images such as this one shape our view of presidential candidates?

Background Information

Timeline: John F. Kennedy [RTF download - 72KB]

We are all familiar with images of presidential candidates on the campaign trail surrounded by supporters and opponents. This photograph shows a promising young candidate less than two months after he was confirmed by the Democratic Party as candidate for president in 1960. Today we most often see these images on television rather than in still photos in newspapers or magazines. This photograph shows the promising young candidate less than two months after being confirmed as the Democratic Nominee for President in 1960.

After arriving on a chartered plane in Burbank, California, Kennedy is pressed in from all sides by people holding signs of support, taking home movies, and trying to shake the senator's hand as he is escorted to his car. Amidst the mob, Kennedy appears calm and relaxed—he smiles as he greets his constituents. This image clearly shows Kennedy's general appeal, which helped him win the election and endeared him to so many in his first term as president in 1960.

The label on the right side of the photograph was attached in order to send the image through the wire service. The label identified the image and provided a credit and caption for both the image and the distribution service that it came from.

About the Artist

Robert Flora began studying photography while in high school in Lynnwood, California. After graduation, Flora was hired as a darkroom technician for the Acme News Picture Service. During the Korean War, he served as a photographer in the Army. His duties included the production of training films. Returning from military service, Flora resumed work for Acme, and became a news photographer for them in 1957. Acme was eventually acquired by United Press, which later merged with International News Service and became United Press International (UPI).

Most of Flora's work was made in Los Angeles from the 1960s through the 1980s. Among the major news events he covered in his photographic career were the Watts Riots of August 1965, the Apollo recovery missions from 1969–72, and the murder trials of both Sirhan Sirhan (the assassin of Senator Robert F. Kennedy) (1969) and Charles Manson (1970). Flora also covered numerous Olympic Games from the 1960s through 1984. Flora's photographs were produced as news items, and prints were made and captioned expressly for the purpose of wire transmission to the newspapers, magazines, and other media outlets that subscribed to UPI's news service.