Yesterday I went to the inaugural Photo Fair in San Francisco seeking inspiration, and to gauge the state of the marketplace. I found some remarkable work, but none more compelling than a series of photos by Paul Fusco, which he captured in 1968, while riding the train that carried the body of Robert Kennedy from New York to Washington D.C. I was almost brought to tears.
Thousands of people lined the route to bid farewell, including the rich, poor, black, white, and working class. Some of the photos featured large crowds, while others included families or solitary figures that felt compelled to pay their respects in a brief moment. On a whole Fusco’s pictures captured a country whose hopes were dashed, but their patriotism remained intact.
I can only remember one other time when I’ve had such a visceral reaction to a work of art or exhibit, and that was the Philip Guston retrospective at SFMOMA. In this case, I think the current climate of our country had a lot to do with my response. Hope has been replaced with diminishing American values, unfettered political power, and unease about where our country is headed. Paul Fusco’s work gave me optimism and perspective.
The Danziger Gallery In New York City has a wonderful essay about Fusco’s work and more images. I highly encourage you to take a look and there’s a book featuring all the photos.