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Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition of Avedon's Photographs of President-elect Kennedy and Family Going to Riverside, Cali

RIVERSIDE, CA.- As a new president-elect and his young family begin their preparations for life in the White House, a Smithsonian traveling exhibition looks back on the eve of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration through the eyes of photographer Richard Avedon. “The Kennedys | Portrait of a Family: Photographs by Richard Avedon” will be on view at Riverside Metropolitan Museum in Riverside, Calif., April 11, 2009 through June 7, 2009.

Following its showing in Riverside, the exhibition will continue on a six-city tour through 2010. Developed by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), “The Kennedys | Portrait of a Family” is supported by the Rudolf Eickemeyer Jr. Fund and Collins Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. The exhibition and national tour are sponsored by The History Channel.

“The Kennedys | Portrait of a Family” features 27 framed black-and-white photographs from the historic Jan. 3, 1961, photography session. On assignment for Harper’s Bazaar and Look magazines, elite fashion photographer Avedon traveled to the Kennedy family home in Palm Beach, Fla. Over the next several hours, Avedon took candid and posed portraits of the young president-elect; his wife, Jacqueline; and their children, Caroline and John Jr. Combining elements of fashion and art photography, Avedon sought to capture the essence of the Kennedys at their finest.

Theses images were the only formal pictures take of Kennedy between his election and inauguration.

Avedon created a single edition of the Harper’s Bazaar images and in 1966, a mere three years after Kennedy’s assassination, donated the prints and negatives to the Smithsonian’s newly opened Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History). For the first time, images from this photo shoot are on view in their entirety.

“Of all the photographs in the Photographic History Collection,” said Shannon Thomas Perich, exhibition curator and associate curator of the museum’s collection, “these poignant and stirring photographs never fail to trigger memories, generate conversation and make visitors recognize that they themselves are part of American history.”

“The Kennedys | Portrait of a Family” reveals how the photographer controlled the viewer’s experience through printing techniques and the first family’s understanding of the power of visual media in building a public persona.

The images from the back-to-back photography sessions appeared in the February 1961 issue of Harper’s Bazaar and Look magazine’s Feb. 28 issue. Just three years later, the January 1964 issue of Harper’s Bazaar ran four additional images with the poem “Sailing to Byzantium” by William Butler Yeats as a memorial to Kennedy.

Avedon (1923-2004), one of the most famous photographers of the 20th century, produced fashion layouts, magazine features, advertisements and his own projects. From the 1950s until his death, he photographed the world’s most prominent authors, civic leaders, performers and cultural figures.

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