A Time It Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties

Testing the Waters

By Bill Eppridge
(Copyright © 2008 Bill Eppridge)

In early 1966 my boss, Dick Pollard, Life's director of photography, called me into his office and he said, "You've been to wars, riots, and revolutions. We think maybe it's time that you did a Kennedy campaign. You're ready. You wanna do it?"

Of course I said yes. When the 1966 political campaigns started, it was obvious that Senator Robert Kennedy was going to be an important factor in American politics. The fact that I had never covered politics didn't matter.

That year Bobby was hopping around the country working for other candidates. Although he was not up for election, his trips had all the trappings of a full-blown presidential campaign. The Kennedy name was magic, and the man was controversial.

I spent three months campaigning that year with some carefully preconceived ideas in mind. I knew what we wanted to say, but had to watch and wait for the moment and be ready when the precise situation arrived. Our cover picture—Bobby applauding in front of an almost ghostly portrait of JFK—happened so fast that I had time to make only three frames. The situation never repeated itself. This was the one and only time during the entire period that there was any kind of visual connection between the two.

The most important factor in these pictures was time. The magazine had given me enough time to thoroughly understand my subject—to be able to anticipate his handling of a situation and to be there—ready—when the picture happened.