In the summer of 1958, Joseph Kennedy Sr. hired Jacques Lowe to photograph his son Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy. Lowe, a 27-year-old freelancer who had become friendly with Robert Kennedy after photographing him for several magazines, found the older brother a frostier subject. At their first meeting in Hyannis Port, Kennedy—weary from campaigning for re-election—was stiff, grumpy and uncooperative. But weeks later, around midnight, the senator called Lowe during a visit to Manhattan and invited the photographer over. Greeting him in a bath towel, Kennedy apologized for having been so prickly, praised Lowe for the fine photos he had shot and poured him a drink. His young wife, Jacqueline, joined the pair to select a picture for the couple’s annual Christmas card.
Over the next five years, Lowe would take more than 40,000 photographs of what turned out to be the final chapter of Kennedy’s life. Nearly 200 of those images—among them the warm, candid family photographs that appear on the following pages—can be seen in Lowe’s 10th book, JFK Remembered, published this month by Random House. Contrary to a popular conception, Lowe says, Kennedy made no effort to stage pictures to burnish his image. “He would never ask why I was photographing him even though he might be half-nude,” writes Lowe. “An unspoken trust had developed between us.”
Even at the time, Lowe says, a sense of history in the making permeated Kennedy’s momentous journey to the White House. Now, on the 30th anniversary of the President’s death, Lowe considers himself privileged to have witnessed—and preserved—that period of joy and promise.