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9 / Portraits

Kennedy Family on beach, Hyannis Port, 1959 (Caroline overhead)
Kennedy Family on beach, Hyannis Port, 1959 (Caroline overhead)
Artist / Origin Mark Shaw (American, 1922–1969)
Region: North America
Date 1959
Material Vintage gelatin silver print
Credit © 2000 Mark Shaw/MPTV.net

expert perspective

David LubinProfessor of Art, Wake Forest University

Kennedy Family on beach, Hyannis Port, 1959 (Caroline overhead)

» Mark Shaw (American, 1922–1969)

expert perspective

David Lubin David Lubin Professor of Art, Wake Forest University

When John Kennedy was running for president he was very conscious, he and his father, Joseph Kennedy, who had started off as a Hollywood producer, ran a studio and was very conscious about developing Kennedy’s image in a certain way that would appeal to the electorate, and it was an electorate that was postwar. It was the era of Dr. Spock and it was about being child-friendly—that this is what was expected of a leader. Whereas in previous generations leaders were expected to be distant, remote, and authoritarian and patriarchal, John Kennedy is not a patriarch; he’s a family man. And so the pictures that Mark Shaw, for example, photographed of the Kennedys in Hyannisport in the summer of 1959, when he was first running for the Democratic nomination, really emphasized that he was part of a unit of wife, father, daughter.

So he did a really brilliant job of merging authority and privilege and power with a sense of approachability, that people could look at Kennedy and go, ‘Geez, he has young kids, he probably wakes up in the middle of the night to deal with his kids’ problems just the same as I do.’ And so he humanizes his authority.” 

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