Burned Into Memory
By Bill Eppridge
(Copyright © 2008 Bill Eppridge)
Two days after the funeral, my boss, Dick Pollard, called me into his office and asked me what I wanted to do. He could see that I needed a break.
I thought about it, and realized I wasn't happy dealing with people anymore. He asked me where I wanted to go, and I said, "the mountains, any mountains." At 3 a.m., my phone rang. It was Pollard, still in the office, a normal thing at Life in those days. He said he had something, a lovely story on wild horses in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana.
"When do you want me back?" I asked. "When you feel like it," he said. Three months later I came back with pictures that eventually ran 12 pages in Life. But it was a lot longer before I got involved in any more political campaigns.
Life, the weekly magazine, ceased publication in 1972. Doris O'Neill, the head of Life's picture collection, called me at around that time. She said that they were destroying many of the large pictures in the files, and thought I might like to have the original print of the RFK assassination photograph—the only print that Life ever engraved from. It was a large print, 16 by 20 inches. Without hesitation, I told her I would fly to New York and pick it up.
I could never hang that print on the wall, and put it behind the sofa in my home in Laurel Canyon. A few years later, a canyon fire totally destroyed my house. The day after the fire I found most of my things in ruin. The sofa was burned, but still in place. I looked behind it, and there was the picture. The sofa had protected it from most of the fire. It had burned around the edges, but the image on film was preserved, burned into memory.