Avedon and Greenfield-Sanders, Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009


Edward Kennedy, Richard Avedon, 1976
Edward Kennedy, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, 1998

Edward M. Kennedy died early Wednesday morning following a year-long battle with brain cancer.

As the youngest son of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, Ted became a force in the U.S. Senate over his 47 years of service. During his freshman term, he was in the chair when word came to the Senate that the President, his brother Jack, had been shot in Dallas. When Bobby Kennedy was killed in 1968, Ted became not only the patriarch of the Kennedy family but the caretaker of the Camelot legacy. Though he failed at his own presidential aspirations, he became a central figure in American politics, an elder of the Democratic party, and a fierce advocate for issues like civil rights, education, and health care.

Richard Avedon (1923-2004) photographed Ted Kennedy in 1976 for his famous The Family portfolio for Rolling Stone. Senator Kennedy was photographed in the same style as all the other photographs in that portfolio, the flat portrait against a white backdrop that would become Avedon’s signature style. In the original layout, Kennedy’s portrait was placed opposite his mother, Rose.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (1952- ) is also known for a relatively standardized style, with a muted backdrop and naturalistic lighting. I’ve been unable to track down a sitting date for the Kennedy portrait, but based on the style it would date from the late 90s or early to mid 2000s. This portrait was taken at Hyannis Port on October 23, 1998, when the late senator was 67 years old. The photograph was done on an 8×10 transparency.

I felt pairing these two portraits, created so far apart in time, as a diptych portrayed the subject with more force than would any single image. Two additional photos are below, a recent photograph showing Kennedy at work with the President for whose election he was largely responsible, and Ted with Jack and Bobby in much happier days.


President Obama and Senator Kennedy at the White House, April 21, 2009, photo by Pete Souza


The Kennedy Brothers, 1957, photo by Douglas Jones for LOOK magazine, courtesy John F. Kennedy Library

For further information on Senator Kennedy:
[Official Senate Website]   [Congressional Bio]   [Wikipedia]

This post is a preview of a new blog I will be launching in the next several weeks, A Portrait A Day. Each day will offer a portrait along with information on the sitter and photographer. Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions for this blog.

Updated: Because of the time pressure, I was originally unable to do any in-depth research into the Timothy Greenfield-Sanders portrait. A few days later, however, I was contacted by Mico Livingston-Beale of Mr. Greenfield-Sanders’s studio, who provided the relevant details of the sitting. Per Livingston-Beale: “Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ portrait of Edward Kennedy was taken in Hyannis Port on October 23, 1998. 8×10 color transparency.” I appreciate the information, and have integrated it into the above text.


~ by David Cupp on August 26, 2009.

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