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July 28, 2021

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Photographed by Mark Shaw at the White House, April 1961

A version of these photos of Jackie in the West Sitting Hall in the family quarters on the Second Floor of the White House, taken by Mark Shaw for the cover of LOOK magazine in 1961, has been seen frequently due to the fact that it was mistakenly distributed all over the world by the White House as an “official White House photo.” In fact, Mark Shaw retained the rights to all his photographs, an unusually forward thinking decision at that time.





Mark Shaw lived from 1922–1969. He was born in New York’s Lower East Side, the only son of a Lower East Side seamstress and an unskilled laborer. He was a student at New York’s Pratt Institute where he majored in Engineering. He became a highly decorated World War II Air Force pilot. After the War, Shaw started working as a professional photographer and soon became a freelancer for LIFE magazine.

As a photographer he is perhaps best known for his images of Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy and their family which he originally shot as their family photographer. After JFK'’ death a selection of photographs was published as a book “The John F. Kennedy’s – A family album.” This book sold over 200,000 copies when it first came out, very impressive even today. In 2000 Rizzoli published an updated version of “The John F. Kennedy’s – A Family Album,” featuring many never before seen color and black and white photographs. Most recently, Mark Shaw’s images of the Kennedys were widely used in the exhibition “Jacqueline Kennedy – The White House Years,” originating at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and later traveling around the country.

Only two weeks before John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Jacqueline Kennedy wrote a note to Shaw, one of many, thanking him for photographs of her with her three-year-old, John F. Kennedy Jr.: “They really should be in the National Gallery! I have them propped up in our Sitting Room now, and everyone who comes in says the one of me and John looks like a Caravaggio—and the one of John, reflected in the table, like some wonderful, strange, poetic Matisse. And, when I think of how you just clicked your camera on an ordinary day in that dreary, green Living Room. I just can’t thank you enough, they will always be my greatest treasures. Anyone who puts a finger-print on them will have his hand chopped!”

Also leading fashion photographer, Mark Shaw worked for Harper’s Bazaar, Mademoiselle, and a host of other fashion magazines. He started working for LIFE magazine in 1952 and in 16 years shot 27 covers and almost 100 stories. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Mark Shaw shot the European fashion collections for LIFE, and was one of the first photographers to shoot fashion on the runways and “backstage” at the couture shows.




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