Skip to main content

In the event of a government shutdown, the National Portrait Gallery will remain OPEN through at least Saturday, October 7, by using prior year funds. Visit for updates. 

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy
Usage Conditions Apply
George Tames, 1919 - 1994
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 29 May 1917 - 22 Nov 1963
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.1cm x 33.3cm (9 1/2" x 13 1/8")
Sheet: 28cm x 35.5cm (11" x 14")
Home Furnishings\Furniture\Seating\Chair
Home Furnishings\Furniture\Desk
Symbols & Motifs\Flag\National\United States
John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Male
John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Literature\Writer
John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Politics and Government\US Congressman\Massachusetts
John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Military and Intelligence\Navy\Officer
John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Politics and Government\President of US
John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Politics and Government\US Senator\Massachusetts
John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Pulitzer Prize
John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Presidential Medal of Freedom
United States\District of Columbia\Washington
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Frances O. Tames
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
© George Tames/The New York Times/Redux
Object number
Exhibition Label
Born Brookline, Massachusetts
On February 10, 1961, photographer George Tames spent the day with the recently inaugurated President John F. Kennedy to create a visual essay for the New York Times Magazine. Among the images included was this picture taken in the Oval Office a little after 5:00 p.m., showing a backlit Kennedy poring over a newspaper. The standing position was characteristic of the president, who often rose from his chair to ease his chronic back pain.
Kennedy was savvy about the ways images could shape public opinion. When Tames let him preview the final layout, Kennedy recognized immediately that this photograph—with its dramatic contrasts and sense of quiet isolation—conveyed the gravity of the presidency in a way that few other pictures could. He declared that of all the photographs, this one, which did not receive prominent placement in the layout, should have been featured on the magazine’s cover.
Nacido en Brookline, Massachusetts
El 10 de febrero de 1961, el fotógrafo George Tames pasó el día con el recién juramentado presidente John F. Kennedy a fin de crear un ensayo visual para el New York Times Magazine. Una de las imágenes incluidas fue esta foto tomada en el despacho oval de la Casa Blanca poco después de las 5:00 p.m., donde se ve a Kennedy a contraluz inclinado sobre un periódico. La pose de pie era típica del presidente, que a menudo se levantaba de su silla para aliviar su dolor de espalda crónico.
Kennedy sabía bien que una imagen podía moldear la opinión pública. Cuando Tames le mostró el diseño gráfico final, Kennedy supo de inmediato que esta fotografía —con su dramático contraste y atmósfera de callada soledad— trasmitía la solemnidad de la presidencia como pocas otras imágenes. Comentó que de todas las fotografías, esta, que no tenía sitio prominente en el diseño, debió haber sido la portada de la revista.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery