For Photo l.a. 2020, Danziger Gallery presents Paul Fusco’s “RFK Funeral Train” series, a selection of photographs of the people who lined the rails to pay their final respects to Robert F. Kennedy as a train carried his body from New York to Washington where he was to be buried at Arlington Cemetery. In the years since they were taken, these photographs have become a beloved, influential, and seminal series in photography. And while in some ways they represent the end of the hopes and dreams of the sixties, at the same time they celebrate the idealism and diversity of America.
In the middle of 1968, two events shook the nation, the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4th and the assassination of Robert Kennedy on June 5th. Hastily arranged, Robert Kennedy’s funeral train traveled on June 8th, a swelteringly hot early summer day. Paul Fusco, then a staff photographer for LOOK Magazine, was given a place with other journalists on the train. As the train made its progress down the eastern seaboard, hundreds of thousands of mourners came out to line the railway tracks and pay their final respects to Bobby Kennedy and all he stood for. From inside the train, Fusco began to take pictures of the mourners – people from every section of society – black, white, rich, poor, in large groups and on their own. For the eight hours it took for the train to make the usually four-hour journey Fusco never put down his camera except to reload film shooting over 1,000 pictures. From these 1,000 Paul Fusco and James Danziger edited 20 single images that represented the arc of the journey.
The resulting images are one of the most powerful and affecting series of photographs ever taken. Shot on Kodachrome film – a film with a particularly vibrant palette favored at the time by photojournalists – Fusco’s pictures blend the spontaneous look of snapshots with artistic precision of the decisive moment. Each photograph carries its own weight and tells its own story, but cumulatively the series is an epic vision of America.
Jan 30 – Feb 2, 2020
Barker Hangar – Santa Monica, CA