I have many weaknesses. One of my more innocent is post cards. I have hundreds and it doesn’t stop. The other day at the Barbican show “Strange and Familiar, Britain as revealed by International Photographers” (7/10) I picked up a box set of 100 Magnum cards. Mostly good and often historic. But one ripped straight to my heart. The picture(see link) by Paul Fusco of a family standing by the rail road as Robert Kennedy’s bullet scarred corpse was taken back to the ever filling family morgue.
A white ,obviously poor family standing in respect of one the nation’s aristocracy, a man who promised hope and reconciliation. Maybe an escape from the shame of Nixon and the humiliation of the Vietnam war. Thirty years after Dorothea Lange’s emotion grinding pictures of the Great Depression, here is another image of those who believe in, but don’t share in the American Dream.
But look closer. The five kids in wonderful two year order, standing to dutiful, respectful attention, show all the cheek and charm of American Pie, Their dress suggests they haven’t come from the soup kitchen but from swimming in the levee. Huckleberries all. The eldest can hardly suppress his grin, the girl has no idea, her younger brother can hardly conceal his boredom. But they are proud to do their patriotic chore.
So as the train goes by, taking with it so many of the nation’s hopes. I see this other picture. Order,respect, humour, a decent family realising that symbols and traditions and how you relate to them are of the essence of a nation. But this is not blind. The father is strict and maybe bewildered, the mother worn by childbirth and hard work but in those children with their charm and personality and their effort in standing to attention there is so much promise. The eldest who may have been 13 when in 1968 the picture was taken ,would now be 61.
Oh No, he maybe a Trump supporter. Every picture tells a story, its up to you to make it up.