Photographers are famously contentious. A dispute over a favourite photo lands in an obituary decades after it was snapped; the New York Times is forced to amend its article, according to the corrections website, "Regret the Error."
Questions still are being raised over who should receive credit for the famous photograph of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father's casket in 1963. DigitalJournalist.org was first to provide a lengthy look at whether recently-deceased photographer Joe O'Donnell should have been given credit for the shot. At issue is an August 14 obit of him in the New York Times that said, "...the O'Donnell photograph of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father's coffin became the most reproduced version of that memorable scene."From Digital Journalist:
It appears there is strong evidence that the photo was in fact taken by UPI's Stan Stearns.
When Gary Haynes saw the reproduction of the John-John salute alarm bells went off. Haynes, a retired UPI photographer and author of "Picture This!" (Bulfinch Press, 2006), a compilation of great UPI photographs, got in touch with The New York Times. "I alerted The Times, on Aug. 15, the morning after the obit ran, that the photo they had credited to 'O'Donnell' was, I was 99% certain, the famous UPI photo shot by Stan Stearns…. There's no question that the photos are identical. It is impossible for two photographers, even if they are gaffer-taped together, to come up with identical photos.
"I not only relayed this to The Times, but also the Downhold group [a listserv for ex-UPI personnel], and trust me, if you want something checked out by a couple of dozen of the world's best journalists – only some of them retired – this is your group...
Stearns also offers his perspective:
"The true story about John-John saluting … Made by me and it was a "world beater" for UPI. I was chosen to walk with Jackie and the world leaders from the White House to St. Matthew's for the JFK service. When we got there I had to go behind the ropes with the other 70-odd photographers. All squeezed in an area for 30. Wow! UPI photographer Frank Cancellare squeezed me in next to him…. I had the longest lens, a 200mm. ... I just watched Jackie. She bent down and whispered in [John-John's] ear. His hand came up to a salute. Click! One exposure on a roll of 36 exposures...
Hmmm. Might more than one photographer have captured that sad little boy's gesture?