30. December 2011 · Comments Off on In The Beginning – My First Meaningful Photograph · Categories: All

In The Beginning – My First Meaningful Photograph

  I was a senior in High School in June of 1968. I went to work in a pizza restaurant to earn enough money (minimum wage in 1968 was $1.65) to purchase a Mamiya C220 Twin-Lens-Reflex camera. It was really my first professional camera with adjustable aperture and shutter, and it shot medium format film (120) which I processed in a darkroom built by father.
I was fortunate that year to have a great teacher for my government class, John Cummings, who taught me the issues which faced America during the Vietnam War. He loved Robert Kennedy and the courage Kennedy had shown as Attorney General against organized crime and the vision of a more just America.

  Even though I was not old enough to vote in the upcoming presidential election (twenty-sixth amendment was adopted in 1971, allowing 18-yr-olds to vote), Mr. Cummings had made me aware of our political system, and the need to listen to what politicians say and do.

  In early June 1968, Robert Kennedy was campaigning for the California primary and was making a campaign stop in Chula Vista, California, and Kennedy’s speech was scheduled in the afternoon of June 3rd, in front of the Mayors office. I remember that a small crowd of less than a 100 people came to hear Kennedy speak. He was wearing a white shirt and a tie clasp which was an image of his brothers torpedo boat, the PT-109. Someone yelled during the speech that Kennedy, “outta get a haircut.” I also was fascinated by Kennedy’s campaign photographer who was working with a smaller 35mm Single-Lens-Reflex camera, he shot quickly and then moved to different vantage points as if he knew what he was doing. Kennedy’s photographer also needed a haircut.

Robert Kennedy, Campaign Stop, Chula Vista, California, Monday June 3, 1968 by Craig Carlson

  On June 4th, after watching the election results late into the night, I went to bed, but remember waking up around 12:00 AM and turned on the radio. The radio broadcast was from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, the broadcast was hard to hear and sounded like Pandemonium at the hotel; soon a radio reporter announced the assassination attempt on Robert Kennedy. Kennedy died from multiple gun shot wounds 26 hours later in the early morning hours of June 6th. My photograph of Robert Kennedy as a high school senior was a gateway to a life in photography, and the meaning of,  “ƒ/8 and being there.”

  On returning to school the following day after the assassination, I saw Mr. Cummings my government teacher, sitting outside the classroom in a student desk. He was in shock, and in deep grief over the killing of someone he deeply admired.
In 1968 the world would also grieve for the passing of writers, John Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair and beat writer Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac’s muse for his novel, “On The Road.” I would also be saddened by the passing of the man who built my darkroom, my father, who died at age 52.

All Content ©Copyrighted Craig Carlson 2012


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