Disappointment at Dealey Plaza by Donald Barnat

Disappointment at Dealey Plaza
By Donald Barnat

I have to admit to being a pretty cocky photographer. What I mean by that is that if I’m pleased with the images that I make, I’m not particular vulnerable to the negative criticism of others and that includes photographers. Of course, I don’t always make myself happy.  And what I’ve learned about failing to make images that I’m happy with is that it most often happens because I was unwilling or unable to do the hard work of seeing and capturing the great images that were there to be had.

I think good photography is challenging and difficult. I’m not sure it’s as hard as writing something interesting or playing jazz, the latter of which has been compared to changing the fan belts on your car while the motor is running.

I don’t think photography is quite that hard. But at 53 years old, the truth is it’s sometimes more of challenge to take great pictures than I am physically or mentally up to. And I probably wouldn’t be admitting that if not for the shots I’m going to present here.

I don’t consider this to be a strong set of images. They are far from it. I’m disappointed in them and, of course, myself. My excuses are that it was very cold in Dallas, I’m from Los Angeles and not used to that kind of cold, and after watching the Pittsburgh Steelers lose the Super Bowl the evening before, I was pissed off, burnt out, hung over, and completely over the entire Texas experience.

I’d taken my Leica M9 to Dallas thinking I would come back with tons of great pictures. That was not to be the case. Photography is hard and you have to want to take good pictures, and then you have to be willing to do the work to get those pictures. I wasn’t and I came back from the trip with very few images that I ever want to look at again.

Nevertheless, Dealey Plaza, the location where President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, is something else entirely. It is, almost by some kind of natural or unnatural energy, one of the most eerily amazing places I’ve ever visited in my life.

But the strangeness of the experience of visiting there is compounded due to the ghastly and unacceptable way in which this historical site has been allowed to deteriorate, and also because of how it is presented to those who come to this place to try to absorb something of the terrible events that happened there.

The vibe of Dealey Plaza is so thick that the first thing you may notice upon arriving there is the atmosphere of mayhem and disorder that permeates the place. Remember the moment in Oliver Stone’s JFK when the pigeons bolt from the roof of the Texas School Book Depository? It’s just like that moment.

Dealey Plaza, it seemed to me, is a vortex of negative energy. Soon after we arrived and were standing near where Abraham Zapruder shot his incredible film, up at the bend from South Houston onto Elm, the last corner that President Kennedy would turn in his life, there was the wild screech of brakes and a violent collision. Minutes later there was the sound of an ambulance. Someone had been injured, apparently seriously as it wasn’t long before the ambulance sped past us, right up Elm Street and over the spot where the president was shot. There is an image here that shows that moment.

It’s a bizarre place, and there’s no other way of saying it. And a serious traffic accident was just one of many things, the very real sights and sounds of 2011, which contribute to setting the eerie tone in Dealey Plaza.

The lion’s share of negative vibe in Dealey Plaza, however, isn’t generated by happenstance or traffic accidents. It comes from the fact that the place is in such a miserable state of disrepair that it amounts to a disgrace for the city of Dallas, the state of Texas, and the United States of America.

I live in Los Angeles. In what’s called the slums of Beverly Hills. But what I’m about to say goes for virtually everywhere in Los Angeles. There is more attention paid to the grounds keeping and upkeep and beautification of EVERY apartment building on my street, every street in my neighborhood, and just about every building, house, park, intersection, center divider or median strip, car wash, parking lot, and public restroom than there is at the site of the assassination of the 35th president of the United States.

Paint is chipping badly. Rust stains are everywhere. The grass is trodden over, smashed down to dirt and mud under the feet of visitors. Graffiti covers key components of this historical site including the picket fence behind the Grassy Knoll where some say a second shooter may have fired shots at the president’s motorcade.

But there’s one thing even worse than the disrepair at Dealey Plaza and it is an insult to history and everyone who visits the place as well as to the memory of the slain president and of the events that happened there.

The entire principle roadways, including the spot where Kennedy died on Elm Street, is still open to automobile traffic and there is an almost macabre and dangerous scene played out minute by minute as visitors who have come to this spot to try to reconcile, understand, or simply just absorb the events of over 40 years ago are forced to DODGE honking automobiles as they impatiently speed by on the three lanes of Elm Street. It’s outrageous.

In Los Angeles, we close off busy sections of key streets in Santa Monica multiple times a week for a farmer’s market. They’ve permanently shut down five blocks of 3rd street in Santa Monica and turned it into an outdoor shopping promenade.

It is OUTRAGEOUS that the city of Dallas, the state of Texas, or the federal government of the United States, hasn’t as yet sealed off Dealey Plaza to car traffic and turned it into the historical mall that it should be. It is a TINY place in what is certainly a small section of the grand scheme of things in modern Dallas. Yes it would require permanent rerouting of traffic but nothing that doesn’t happen every day in every city in America.

Texas, however, is a still yet a very strange place politically, and this situation is evidence of that which rises to the level of being a disgrace for that state and the city of Dallas.

So the bottom line is that, even though I’m very disappointed in my own photography from this trip, I’d hope that the images show some of the problems that I’m talking about. The graffiti. The people trying to stand on the spot where Kennedy died while traffic bears down on them. The general disrepair.

But I hope that my pictures also capture to some extent the weirdness and the aura of mayhem and negativity that hangs over the place. It’s a place where harsh shadows and mysterious figures are still juxtaposed by a fierce blue sky and glaring sun. Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository are haunted, maybe not by real spirits, but by real history. It’s a cursed and, unfortunately, still dangerous intersection of clashing forces and cross purposes.

Five decades ago it was a young president whose motorcade happened to pass in front of the building where a raging loner name Lee Harvey Oswald worked.

Now it’s people trampling and marking up and slowly destroying a place of incredible historical significance to the United States while they themselves are threatened by the danger of distracted drivers trying to negotiate through their midst.

In Washington D.C they manage to balance the needs of a functioning government with the influx and presence of millions upon millions of visitors every year and it is carried off with dignity and safety. Dealey Plaza is not much bigger than the cafeteria at the Smithsonian. Its importance in terms of traffic and logistics to the city of Dallas is or very easily could be next to nothing. But its historical importance to our country and to the world is off the charts and it should be preserved and presented with the respect and dignity it deserves.

Okay. Have I succeeded yet in distracting you all from the bad pictures? All taken with the M9 and the new 35mm Summilux ASPH. Ernst and Oskar forgive me.

One note about a few of the shots. We managed to walk right into a part of the Texas School Book Depository that was not for tourists. It is still functioning as an office building and courthouse. We sat there literally six floors under the spot where Lee Harvey Oswald fired from for about a half an hour as people came and went on their way to conducting business.  The indoor shots were all taken from the first floor of that infamous building.

The railroad tracks. There’s a raw and archaic American visual at the famous railroad tracks that wind behind the School Book Depository and the Grassy Knoll. That image has been post processed to try to imbue it with the jaundiced appearance of that setting.

Thanks for looking and listening.

Donald Barnat

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  1. You should go back. It’s all been restored back to how it looked in 1963. Same flowers and everything. It’s beautiful.

  2. Much to report here. All of it NEW to me. Just found all this out last week. Turns out a contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine reads Steve Huff and found my article here compelling enough to include in his Vanity Fair blog. Where’s the wide-eyed emoticon when you REALLY need it? Link at bottom. This happened, little did I know, the day after I posted this article here. Apparently those professional journalist guys don’t waste any time. Immediately a writer for the Dallas Observer wrote an entry to HIS blog, linking to the Vanity Fair blog, and THEN, Hee Haw, the cow dung down in Texas most surely did hit the fan. Please find that link FIRST as that is actually the first link I found on Google and was my HARSH introduction to any of this. Finally, Wilonsky at the Dallas Observer posted an UPDATE story just two weeks ago. It’s actual NEWS. I won’t comment on it or spoil it. Anyway.

    Here are the links.




    One last thing.

    GO HEAT! 😉

  3. As you recognized yourself those pics are quite weak, d’accord.
    If you think you have to want to make strong pics in order to make them, then think again. The contrary is the case.

  4. Great write up. I really don’t think your bad day behind the lens has anything to do with age. I’m 35 years old. Sometimes I go out and I’m just not in the mood, or zone. I don’t feel like I’m in the moment, or any moment for that matter. Totally distanced from what I’m looking at or experiencing, and every time I look at the view finder I feel the frustration building and the disappointment sink in just as soon as the shutter reopens.

    It’s too bad travelling isn’t cheap, or I’d challenge you to returning for a few days to see what moments you can capture. But then, considering how badly the place has been looked after, not such a thrilling idea.

    • Thank you, Ray. You’ve described the experience perfectly.

      “I don’t feel like I’m in the moment, or any moment for that matter. Totally distanced from what I’m looking at or experiencing, and every time I look at the view finder I feel the frustration building and the disappointment sink in just as soon as the shutter reopens.”

      Wow. There’s a little Dostoevsky in that description. Thanks for the thoughts.


  5. First, let me say that the people in Texas were as sweet as any people I’ve ever encountered anywhere, with the possible exception of Brazil.

    I ‘get’ the fact that having the place operating as it was may be an important part of the attraction and the vibe or experience of being there. Oh boy I get that. The experience felt like the event was about to happen or had just happened. There’s no neatly attired sanitized tour guides (like in the Sixth Floor Museum) or rope lines and the place hasn’t been gone over by risk averse lawyers nor is there, as I’ve stated above ANY sort of police presence to establish a sense that things are under control or that the City of Dallas or the State of Texas has you, the tourist visiting a historical site in their state, your safety and well being in mind. And I get the dichotomy of what that all means. Somewhere, however, there’s a balance that can be struck between preserving the atmosphere of the place AND what happened there, along with the safety of those who visit there.

    There’s also the issue of upkeep and the feeling that one gets that no one there in any official capacity gives a shit about the peeling paint or the graffiti, etc.

    As far as my statement regarding Oswald’s being the shooter. Wow. I WAS for most of my life completely invested in the idea of a conspiracy, especially one that included elements of the United States Government and the military industrial complex. The book that Oliver Stone’s film was based on, I read that book when it was first published and I thought, probably like Stone did, that it was the answer. By far the best compilation of facts and mysteries and damning circumstances that pointed to exactly who I felt the most likely parties where to have been able to plan and carry out the assassination.

    But I was younger then. I hadn’t really done something that I think so many people were slow to do, which was to sit back and consider exactly who Lee Harvey Oswald was. And it’s not to say that he wasn’t involved or the trigger man in a larger conspiracy. He very well could have been. But this was an absolutely extraordinary young man. People wanted to believe in a conspiracy due to a psychological effect that doesn’t allow us to believe that something so large as the course of history being changed can be accomplished by one little person. But Oswald was way way more than he appeared to be.

    Not touting Wikepedia as reliable research but just take a look at the entry there on Oswald, noting especially his Marine Corp career (nuts!) and his defection to the Soviet Union and then his return. Read the entry on New Orleans. Just an amazing (I’m not making a positive or negative judgment by using the word ‘amazing’ ) AMAZING young man. He made a LOT of noise in his 24 years of life even before Nov. 22. 1963.

    I’ve done a lot of reading over the years on the Kennedy assassination. I would suggest a book that doesn’t claim to be anything BUT fiction, but was well researched and written by a better writer and greater mind than probably any of the conspiracy theorists. Libra, by Don DeLillo. That’s a book that gives Oswald’s incredibly full and wacky 24 years of existence on this planet it’s due.

    As an aside. Bernadette and I both SAW President Kennedy live and in person. He spoke in our home town in 1962. We didn’t know each other then but we and every Democrat or Catholic in Aliquippa Pa showed up for the President of the United States giving a speech in our small town. Anyway.

    Don’t short change Oswald. He was an extraordinary dude. This wasn’t a Jared Lee Loughner by any stretch of the imagination and just look at the destruction Loughner was able to perpetrate in a matter of seconds.

  6. Unfortunately, you’ve fed off the “City of Hate” myth that’s been perpetuated unfairly ever since the event. Your photography’s middling at best, and your comments are typical West coast bias prattle. LA didn’t do anything to mark RFK’s murder site; your city is far more ignorant of its history and culture. Spend your time doing something more constructive, like working to save the Watts Towers!

  7. I am from Dallas and disagree a little with your comments about sealing the place off. I think part of the attraction is the feel the live space gives it. You can watch cars speed by and contemplate or you can drive you own car through and judge. Its still the same as it was…not some museum. You felt it yourself…you can’t seriously think it would keep that quality closed off.

    Did you know the X isn’t official? Sometimes the city paves it over and someone will almost instantly come paint the same exact X on the spot. And next time you are here, I would invite you to take the Bonnie and Clyde tour. Also, all y’all are welcome to attend our annual Dead Kennedy themed bicycle race on the closest Saturday to Nov 22

    That being said, I think the whole thing is macabre and don’t understand it.

  8. Not all the photos have that “great!” tag to them, but your dialogue plus the photos would challenge the best in photojournalism. Enjoyed it immensely. Thank you.

  9. J.Kennedy was shot from in his car by the front passenger. His wife tried to escape from exiting the open-top back, but the security pushed her back in. Most ground level footage were confiscated immediately afterwards. Chances are that, a ‘gun bang’ set-up from the building was in place to create the window-shot scenario.


  10. What a strange description. Hyperbole or an over reaction, maybe. I’ve been there on foot and driven thru there many times while in Dallas. I’d say it is most remarkable for being unremarkable. Maybe that strange vortex of negative energy is, you know, just the general vibe of Dallas and North Texas. Perhaps you were expecting something antiseptic like the white sepulchres of DC, so full of false piety.

    Dealey seems like any other place in downtown Dallas to me. A place of whizzing cars where people go for business and get out of in a hurry, just like Mr Kennedy was trying to do. I *like* that it is what it is. You can love Dallas or hate it, or have mixed feelings about it. But Dealey as it is feels as if it fits the Dallas it was a part of in the early sixties, and is still a part of, however unglamorous or disorderly it seems to a rich sophisticated Beverlino.

    On my first trips to Dallas in the 90s it was pretty cool to go thru East Dallas, Oak Cliff and other areas that still had a cool 50’s and early 60’s look (without trying to be retro) and try to imagine what it was like back then. It’s a shame so many parts of the city from that era have torn down the mid century style apartments and redeveloped them with colossal condo structures that make the neighborhoods unrecognizable from only a decade ago.

    And I have never seen so many people in there as in your pictures. You must have picked a very busy day. Maybe Eryka Badu has sparked new interest in the place with her stripping video.

    Now that tacky 6th floor museum, or whatever it’s called.. that’s another story.

  11. Hello Mr. Barnat and Mr. Hoff
    As a native citizen and current college student of Dallas, I appreciate your concern for Dealey Plaza and its place in our city and our collective American history.
    I would like to point out a few things to you that might help you in your future analysis, in no particular order,
    1. Dealey Plaza is not the JFK memorial. That memorial actually sits behind the Old Red Courthouse and is an interesting modern structure. Dealey plaza was a product of New Deal public works initiatives. By your pictures, it doesn’t appear that you made your way to the actual memorial.
    2. JFK’s visit to Dallas was supposed to be a grand “coming out” party for Dallas as the city gained momentum and status within the United States. For MANY years afterwards, and by some even still today, Dallas is known as “the city Kennedy got shot in”. You would be wrong to judge us so quick in our “forgetfulness”. In fact, our community memory wants to forget the events of that day, at least, forget that they happened in our city, that we might be blamed for the decisions of any number of individuals (see point 5 and 6). Very little has been done to preserve the site. *In fact, the building the museum is housed in was set to be demolished several years ago, but the city decided to rent out several floors for office space to save the building.
    3. No state or federal funding goes to maintaining the JFK museum and. It is operated entirely by a privately funded non-profit. ***As for the grounds, Dealey Plaza and surrounding areas are considered a National Landmark, and, according to their website, is in “good condition”. If you have a problem with the upkeep, I guess I would try taking it up with them. See: http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=2164&ResourceType=District
    4. The famous “triple-underpass” is still a very crucial artery into and out of the city. Though it was the site of a horrible crime, it is still our city, and we choose to try to move forward rather than be frozen. However, in addition to preserving the triple underpass structure (yes a landmark, so not much you can change there) all the surrounding buildings have been preserved, and would look much like it did in the 60’s
    5. Your alluded implication of LHO as the man who did the crime is rather under-researched. In fact, the Museum directors would tell you that they do not state any conclusion as to who did it. You’ll note in the diorama display case in the museum (left over from FBI investigations) there is a coil of string sitting next to the miniature limo model. That string initially connected from car to window of the building, but the Museum realized it was creating to firm of an idea of what happened (when it really has never been proven).
    6. All of the mishaps, broken stories, lost evidence, etc from the federal “investigations” into the matter is more of a shame to our nation than to the city of Dallas. For example, did you know that little more than a week after the shooting, LBJ had the limo (a HUGE piece of evidence) completely stripped and all the upholstery replaced and used it. Why in such a rush? There are many people to point your fingers at, not just Dallas.
    Not saying I’m a conspiracy theorist, but that you should look into things a little bit.

    Thanks for your photographs. Intriguing, yes. I hope that you won’t judge my city so quickly next time.

  12. nice post. love your perspective, but oswald? come on, take some sodium pentothal and re write this post.

  13. Great post, doubleleg, and thank you for placing the Dealey Plaza situation in some historical context. Ford’s Theater was in my mind as a comparison because it was one of the stops on a long DC field trip I took in the 9th grade, some 40 years ago.

    I think there are some significant differences between Dealey Plaza and any other assassination site and one that includes even Ford’s Theater. First, is that this is a very well known and heavily visited site, unlike every other site and i would say yes, with the exception of Ford’s Theater.

    But the one factor that is unique to Dealey Plaza is that it is still yet an actively used, three lane roadway that serves, as can be seen by the overhead signs, as a transition that feeds into at least a couple of freeways. So you have a large number of visitors on foot interacting with a automobiles driven by mostly patient (sometimes not) drivers just trying to get where they are going in a busy city.

    It’s a dangerous scene. At least by, I guess, California standards and by my own common sense. I couldn’t believe my eyes frankly that there were no police officers out there preventing people from entering the street. We call that jaywalking here in LA and if there was anyplace where it was happening with any regularity whatsoever LAPD would be there handing out tickets for the safety of those doing it. Here a simple railing along Elm, a single officer or park ranger or security guard, even just some signs prohibiting pedestrians from stepping onto the roadway, anything like that would establish that someone there in Dallas is thinking responsibly about the safety of the thousands of visitors to this site every year.

    I didn’t see a lot of kids there actually. If I took a child there i would have to have them tethered, lol, I think, to me. Maybe no one has as yet been injured as a result of the situation there, I don’t know. But most metropolitan places that I can think of manage the daily interaction with automobiles and foot traffic strictly and responsibly.

    I would also point out that it is precisely the visible and instantly obvious lack of a responsible presence in Dealey Plaza that contributes mightily to the out of control atmosphere or a vibe of disorder that absolutely permeates the experience of being there. It’s not some kind of flight of my imagination. I guess to some extent my perspective is based on that I’m coming from a context here in LA where an unmanaged out of control situation such as I saw in Dealey Plaza is kind of unthinkable.

    Again, thank you all for looking at the pictures and reading the piece. As far as going back to Dallas and trying again, there are some NCAA regionals being hosted there in a few weeks, I could go back down there and shoot them for the publication. The chile was good down there. But I don’t think so. Someone else will have to pick up where I left off. Think of it as a challenge to come away with more compelling images than mine. Maybe not that tall of an order there but until you actually do it…


    thanks, again


  14. I’ve been to Dealey Plaza several times (most recently about a year ago) and it has never seemed neglected or poorly maintained to me. It’s actually in pretty good shape. That peeling paint you talk about is on the John Neely Bryan monument, which has nothing to do with JFK. The picket fence is actually a replica of the original, which rotted away many years ago as wood tends to do. It’s also odd that you didn’t mention (or notice) the rather elaborate JFK museum inside the book depository building.

    Dallas does have plans to restore the site to its exact condition on 11-22-63, but that would be pretty expensive, and you are probably aware that municipal and state governments aren’t exactly rolling in cash these days.

    I’m not saying that Dallas has done a perfect job with the Dealey Plaza, but your overwrought, bombastic essay makes it sound like the site is in ruins, and it just isn’t.

  15. It is too bad that you didn’t take the time to walk around the rest of Dealy Plaza to take note of the major restoration/repair project just completed on the pergolas and fountains along Houston Street. It is also too bad that you happened to pick the one area of the park that the City has yet to start work on as an example of disrepair and neglect.

    Also, grass tends to look dead and muddy during winter after a six inch snow. I know most people from LA wouldn’t know that, but it is a fact. Come back in the late spring/early summer and it will look quite different.

    Considering how LA treated the Ambassador Hotel, I would also reserve judgement on how other cities treat historic sites. I guess the award winning Six Floor museum, cafe and giftshop along with the Philip Johnson designed JFK memorial a block over isn’t enough of a rememberance.

  16. Nice photos. They make me want to visit Dallas, a very nice place according to my friends who live there.

  17. For a long time I drove through Dealey plaza as part of my morning commute. That stretch of road is one of the very few; actually it is one of the only ways to get onto that stretch of freeway out of Downtown. Every morning I would dodge tourist and drive over the X, in no way is it disrespect or a dismissal of the events that happened there. Additionally I have had dinner in the booth at the “Egyptian” restaurant where it is rumored that Jack Ruby hung out. I have sat in the theater seat at the Texas Theater and yes I have been to the 6th floor window that overlooks Dealey, heck I have even paid my taxes at the courthouse across the street. All of these are part of the living history that is part of life in Dallas. The events of that day are part of our city’s history, they are important and they should be remembered; a city is made of people, we have experiences in shared spaces ; Dealey plaza is that shared space. Rather than making Dealey plaza an antiseptic museum piece we in Dallas live our lives. Driving over that X I am remembered of those event because my city is alive, shutting the plaza off shuffles it from our memories. You are photographer your life’s work is to capture moments in our lives, moments that only happen when we are living.

  18. Really great work, I would love to travel to America to take pictures one day. I think the colour photographs work best the black and white images don’t really work with the rest of the images being colour. The aesthetic of the M9 is amazing, you know an M9 shot when you see one.

  19. I’ve no comment on the photos

    The Kennedy assassination continues to fascinate many, even obsess some. The subsequent fate, however, of locations where American Presidents have met with an assassin’s bullet are generally pretty spotty. John Thompson Ford’s famous theater in DC was appropriated from him by the Federal government and used in one fashion or another by the army for many many years. In the 1880’s (I believe) it partly collapsed and killed some 20+ government clerks. It became a government warehouse in 1931. It was eventually reopened as a theater in 1968, and did not become a National Historic Site along with the Peterson House across the street (where the mortally wounded Lincoln would die the morning after being shot) until 2009.

    William McKinley’s fatal encounter with the anarchist Leon Czolgosz in 1901 took place at the Temple of Music in Buffalo NY. The building was later torn down for residential development. The Milburn House nearby where McKinley died six days later fared no better. It was originally converted into an apartment building which was itself eventually bulldozed for parking for a High School. There is now a plaque near where the Temple used to be. Interestingly, however, the building where Teddy Roosevelt took the oath of office as McKinley’s successor is now a National Historic Site.

    I think you’re a bit hard on Dallas and Texas. It’s no excuse to say others have done as badley, but our history does seem to suggest that, as a nation, we don’t do much about commemorating such sites anytime contemporaneous with the event. I suspect the Kennedy tragedy is too fresh, still too open a wound on the American psyche to address a proper memorial or National Historic Site designation.

    One day, I expect, it will be, but no time soon. It took them over 140 years to get around to Lincoln, whose assassination was at least as momentous an event in American history as President Kennedy’s, changing, as it did, the entire course of the reconstruction in ways that even today are felt in the body politic. I’m not trying to minimize how disasterous losing Kennedy was. It brought us Lyndon Johnson, huge social program spending and a lingering disaster in Viet Nam, which one can argue would have progressed quite differently had JFK lived. So I think over time we’ll see the situation addressed.

    I think you should go back and shoot some images that you are happy with and continue to argue the case. Thanks for sharing the post.


  20. Not cocky in the slightest about the need to be proofed and edited, Vincent. But my eyesight has deteriorated in the past five years as well as my patience. By the way, is this your work? Unfortunately.

    “April 10th, 2009

    From a conversation with one of the top East Coast VCs, these are the things you must receive in a term sheet if you’re on the VC side:

    Liquidation preference
    A board seat
    Right of first refusal for subsequent funding rounds.
    The absence of any one of those terms should be a deal-breaker, but if you have those, you should be able to get close the deal.”

    I’ve been able ‘to get close the deal’ myself lately. It’s a wonderful feeling. Almost. 😉

  21. Thanks for sharing and being brave to venture there. I for one have no interest in setting foot in that place. I was 13 on that day and the events from that day are burned into my memory. Our teacher in school (a large man who had been in combat in WWII) was sobbing as was my mother and father. And the 24/7 TV coverage that wouldn’t let one escape from the horrible reality. Then two days later to see LHO shot and killed live on TV was the icing on that awful cake. That the place is not being kept up is perhaps a metaphor for the general malaise, discontent, and uncertainty in this country today and in particular the pride some texans take in distancing themselves from todays America. Lastly, I disagree that this should be a memorial or shrine. What happened there was too awful and unspeakable. That place should just be left to decay and vanish.

  22. Don’t loose heart! I too have been in your shoes and had high expectations, only to come home disappointed and wondering what went wrong and why I still bother. I hope you don’t view the trip as a defeat. The image of the railroad tracks is truly amazing. If I had come home with that shot I would have been ecstatic. I read a quote from Ansel Adams once that said “If you can get 10 great photos a year you’re doing pretty good.” I know that with today’s technology we have higher expectations but the truth is… Really great photography happens on rare occasions. Even one great shot makes it worth the 1000 deletions.

  23. Fantastic images and work, Donald. It’s been great corresponding with you and now even better to read your thoughtful prose and see your gentle/yet powerful images.

  24. As far as the images are concerned, thank you again, by the way. I’m really a 50mm guy, as Steve has described himself and so many others here have. I can use the 35mm focal length, but it’s more work as it really involves shooting something in the foreground and using the background as context. I’m good at that, I believe. I’ve done a lot of sports photojournalism and events and charity functions etc. It’s work and I’m sweating at the end of the night, but I generally do very well. That kind of photography requires constantly repositioning yourself with the camera physically in relation to your foreground subject. It means getting closer to a subject and, for me because I’m a little tall, bending at the knees, swooping in, and all kinds of fun stuff. For me, shooting with a 50mm requires a different mindset entirely that is more involved with looking through the frame for your shot. It’s more contemplative and more satisfying. And you can see I think, in these images, or I can see, I should say, that I was maybe trying to use the 35 Lux in the way that I might use a 50.

    There is one image here that while not particular visually interesting, IS a significant shot in journalistic sense. That would be the 6th (ironically) image down from the top. The one with the white ‘X’ placed on the asphalt on the spot where the fatal head shot struck President Kennedy. The reason that shot is, I think, significant, is because it shows the spot where Kennedy was struck by the final fatal shot… with the sniper’s lair on the 6th floor of the School Book Depository in the upper right corner of the image. That window is kept, I believe, permanently half opened (but sealed, I’m sure) as it was on the fateful day. I would point out that the shots were fired from the 6th floor of what is a seven story building.

    Anyway, thank you again for the kind remarks regarding the images. I’m amazed that I would choose pictures from one of my worst days and trips photographically to finally post an article on Steve’s great site.

    And thank you, especially, to Steve for all of his hard work acting as a central hub for a large and growing community of photographers online. Have a great trip, Steve. I was in Brazil a few years ago. Have fun, but watch out for the greatest danger of all in Brazil, and it’s not petty crime. Watch out for cars. I was almost hit by a car at LEAST three times in my two weeks down there. Stay on the sidewalk and watch yourself getting out of cars or cabs.


  25. Well thank you, everyone. You’re very kind. But JEEZ, it would have helped my decay theme had I sent Steve the PICTURES that SHOW THE DECAY! Wow. Senior moments. Here are three that I forgot send to send along.



  26. First of all, I have to say after reading the first paragraph, I was thinking “amen”. After reading the second paragraph I had to lough out loud. Not because it was silly, but because I find the analogy of playing jazz and repairing your car’s fan belt while the engine is running quite striking.

    The first time I visited Steve’s site today, I noticed this post and quickly looked at the pictures. They didn’t say anything to me. The second time I visited, I took the time to read the text, and now the pictures are telling a story to me. While they may not have the quality of the great masters of photojournalism, together with the words you wrote they do their job well. No need to be disappointed!

  27. Donald, I truly enjoy reading your photo essay and I love that your photos support that you have to say. I have never been to Dallas myself, but your words and photos do voice very some strong and convincing points.
    I hope this important historical site is preserved and preserved with dignity and respect because what happened there that day almost 50 years ago was indeed one of the darkest days in our great nation’s history.

  28. I watched Oliver Stones JFK just a few weeks ago, so I think it was very interesting reading your story.

    I also like your pictures a lot and think the colors are great. Are those colors right out of the M9 or did you tweek them in post processing? I do not own an M9 myself, but have seen some pretty bad colors on other M9 photos, but after seeing your pictures I guess i have to revise my opinion (which is not a bad thing).


  29. I like the shots, particularly the one of the rail tracks.

    I also think that’s a whole lot of bombastic editorial for being there for only 1/2 an hour or so. My opinion.

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