If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:6:30

Video transcript

[Music] [Applause] let me say first that I accept the nomination of the Democratic Party I accept it without reservation and with only one obligation the obligation to devote every effort of my mind and spirit to lead our party back to victory and our nation to greatness we're in the photography Study Center in the Minneapolis Institute of Art meeow looking at a photograph of John F Kennedy this is a photograph that Gary wina grant took at the 1960 Democratic National Convention of Kennedy in the midst of his acceptance speech for the nomination for the presidency upon this acceptance speech he begins to run against Nixon and will eventually become the president of the United States Kennedy in the center he's being looked at by winnig ran through the lens and then were also enabled as viewers to see a second image of Kennedy on this snowy black-and-white TV screen so this is being projected live across the country this image is about how celebrities and politicians and people who have a public persona are constantly mediated through images and through broadcasts to us that we never fully have intimate access to them as real human beings and of course we can't look at this photo without knowing how his story goes kennedy's nomination was not a foregone conclusion many people were in the running like Adlai Stevenson from Illinois Hubert Humphrey from Minnesota and Kennedy was not backed by the establishment because he would be the youngest person to be elected president up to that point and also his Irish Catholic background every United States president up to that time had been a Protestant and there was significant anti-catholic sentiment in the United States those are the kinds of things that party elites were wondering if they would be a liability in his facing off against Nixon an intense Cold War crusader during the 1950s but the 1960 Democratic convention was different in many ways when a grant talked about how this was not a place of smoke-filled back room discussions he saw it as a more open convention with a much younger voice one of the questions that we have about this photograph even existing is what was Winograd doing there there's no Oh evidence that he was on assignment for anybody so he must have gone there on his own volition to poke around and see what was going on and eventually winds up taking many photographs but this is the only one he printed he's known best as a street photographer who takes a small portable camera a Leica out into the street the political context is a little unusual for him and it's possible that because he was drawn to crowds and people watching and catching these unscripted moments that the convention with the carnival aspect that sometimes the convention had would have just seemed like a perfect spectacle for somebody who was so attuned to photographing things from the periphery but this photograph is different unlike so many winter Grand photographs there's a central focus it's the back of JFK in the distance we can make out some other people but they're out of focus these are photographers and television news cameras it's really only the third convention that had been televised nationally soon after this photograph was taken Kennedy will sit down with Nixon in front of the television camera for the first televised presidential debates but within just a few years Kennedy will be assassinated in Dallas and it's those images and of course the zubur uder films it had such a profound impact on the American psyche that too is mediated through lots of different kinds of images that have been interpreted and scrutinized over and over and over again but here in 1960 in a much more innocent moment we see Kennedy's back his head is framed by the camera lights creating a halo his right hand is up it's also framed by light it is an image that rhymes with earlier images of orders and leaders that go back to the convention of roman statuary winning grant is giving us a privileged view from backstage it is very different from the image that is beamed to living rooms around the United States it strikes me how vulnerable Kennedy seems at this moment too because we have such close access to him when I look at this image I can't help but think of all the events that happen afterwards the cameras trained on Kennedy as if they were the scopes of a rifle the clock a reminder of the memento mori that his time is running out but it's an important reminder also that works of a heart have a lie of their own as they move into society there is a different kind of meaning that develops as our immediate memories of this president recede the light on Kennedy's face that glowing halo effect feels like a martyria limit all these different things start to gain different kinds of symbolic significance the photographer has so little control over the things that he's photographing he has his placement he has his timing he has choices in terms of lens and film and f-stop and shutter speed but he's working to a large extent in terms of instinct one second to another could make her break the image when Grant said something about that he said great photography is always on the edge of failure before today I had only seen this photograph in reproduction this is an original print that the photographer not only took but then he developed the film and he printed the image and it is a masterful print on specific kind of paper that has a particular kind of texture decoding all the different chemical reactions bringing out the nuances of the black and white making judgment calls about how much to expose and how not is all a skillset of the photographer that people aren't really aware of anymore because of the ability of digital photography you use the term black and white but I would argue there's no absolute black and there's no absolute white here there's this rich warm gradation the depth aspect of this is something that can startle you when you're not used to seeing printed photography and that adds to the visual dynamism of this image [Music]