Monday, May 28, 2018

The Train: RFK’s Last Journey. Photos at SFMOMA

It seems appropriate that on Memorial Day that I should mention the murder of Bobby Kennedy, the one of a trio of important murders (JFK, MLK, Medgar Evers), that turned the trajectory of our country toward the right. 

The Train: RFK’s Last Journey” is an ingenious and, in a surprising way, affecting exhibition that opened last month at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Although the train in question is the one that, almost fifty years ago, carried Robert Kennedy’s body from New York City to Washington, D.C., for burial in Arlington Cemetery, the show is not about Kennedy. The show is about death—or, more exactly, about the relationship between photography and death......

Fusco’s photographs are amazing in pretty much every way. Technically, the Kodachrome film produces a highly saturated image. It was a hot day, but it was June, and the light—Fusco seems to have been shooting people on the west side of the tracks, which must have been a challenge as the sun dropped in the sky—is an almost palpable, weighty presence.

As for the faces themselves, it was emotion that brought people out to stand waiting, sometimes for hours, beside the tracks in the heat—and those emotions are legible. Fusco must have realized that it was faces that he wanted, and he compensated for the movement of the train by focussing on a single person and moving his camera while he pressed the shutter, so that individual faces are often captured in focus against a slightly blurred background. There is a nakedness in them that is rare in public—these people don’t think that anyone is looking at them—a nakedness that many photographers have tried to capture. It’s here. 

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