I was sitting on the grass of a hillside just outside the barn during the Eddie Adams Workshop and an older gentleman walked up, looked over my shoulder, and said, “Boy I love that camera,” as he peered down at the Contax G2 sitting in my lap.
I didn’t recognize this person at the time because it had been years since I had seen him and I had met him only once, briefly, roughly eight years ago.
If I had known who it was I would have stood up and shook his hand.
For those of you who don’t’ know Bill Eppridge I highly recommend taking some time to get to know his work.
However, I think most of us, as Americans, at least those my age or older, will already be painfully but respectfully aware of his legacy.
Bill was a photographer for Newsweek Magazine, and the photographer responsible for photographing the campaign of Robert Kennedy.
All I can say about this body of work is that is triumphant in it’s tragedy and a living, breathing reminder of lost innocence, in not only a country, a people and a time, but also in the lost innocence of photography of this nature.
This body of work will never be duplicated, not even close, and should stand as a reminder of the idea of freedom, respect, reporting, relationships and the significance of photography as a recorder of history.
“I stopped being a photographer and began recording history,” Bill said of the moment when Robert Kennedy was assassinated.
Granted unusual access, Eppridge was with Kennedy every step of the way, including those last moments forever seared into the minds of human beings worldwide as the fateful day came undone.
Let me remind you, these images are not only monumental, historical images, but they are beautifully done. The black and white is crisp, contrasty, sharp and retains a depth and focus that is not seen in today’s reportage world. He used basic ingredients compared to what we have today, and for some reason it just looks better than anything else I’ve seen. And, let me say, he was not out shooting hundreds, thousands of images at a time. When the shots rang out he had few frames left on both cameras, and admitted that the first image was out of focus, but the remaining three or four pictures were all….perfect. He thought, he composed and he made them count with history on the line. For this I have great appreciation.
I was fortunate enough to be at the workshops when the lights dimmed, the doors closed, students took their seats, and Bill unleashed this work on all of us. It was impossible to not be moved.
If you haven’t figured it out, I’m slightly jaded about the photography world, in a good way, but with work like Bill’s, nothing else matters. You are confronted in a way that seldom occurs. You are confronted by his lifelong commitment to photography, and by the images that will remain in your mind’s eye because they are too good to forget.
As I walked out of the building shortly after the final image faded to black, I ran into a friend who was standing there shaking his head from side to side. “What?” I asked.
“That was incredible,” he said, seemingly unable to come to grips with what he had just seen.
THAT is what photography is all about.
So, if you have a moment, take some time and take a look.