The People's View - about the Robert F Kennedy funeral train (in progress)

Elizabeth NJ_ photographer:Rich Taylor

June, 2018 will mark half a century since Robert F. Kennedy's funeral train made its way from New York City to Washington, D.C. I am currently working on an exhibition and book of vernacular photographs of the funeral train that were taken on June 8, 1968.

Several photographers traveled on the funeral train, including photographer Paul Fusco, who photographed the entire journey from onboard on commission for Look magazine. The main subject of these images is the people who stood along the tracks, paying their last respects and expressing bewilderment and sorrow.

I carried Fusco's book of these beautiful photos with me each time I traveled along that railway. The book is my most important source of inspiration and main reference point. For many of the people I encountered along the train's route, it meant a first look at the crowd - as photographed from aboard the train - of which they were part nearly 50 years ago.

In my project, I aim to reverse the perspective that Fusco offered in his photos, by showing the photographs of RFK's last journey as taken by these spectators. The people along the track photographed the train for themselves in an attempt to hold on to a moment in history. 1968 was marked by the mounting tide of the Civil Rights Movement, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the escalating Vietnam War. The rest of the world watched the USA with disbelief, just as it does in current times.

Today, the visual fragments of this historic train journey lie hidden in people's homes in boxes and family albums. My wish is to link these images together once more, just like the people who stood side by side along the railroad. With this archive of personal images, I hope to add a new chapter to a collective memory that is slowly passing on.

On my research trips, I visited almost all of the places through which the funeral train passed in an effort to track down people who took photographs of the train. So far, I have collected a variety of intriguing images, numbering about 170, including blurred snapshots, black-and-white photographs, beautiful Kodachrome slides, and a few 8mm home movies, as well as many personal stories. The project will take the form of a book and a multi-screen video installation.

The book will be published in 2018 by Fw: Books (NL) in collaboration with the Magnum Foundation.
The American essayist, art critic, and poet David Levi Strauss has also contributed an essay for the book.

This project will be exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, Les Rencontres D'Arles (France),
the International Center of Photography, New York City and the Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam