An archetypical photojournalist, Stanley Tretick was born in Baltimore and raised in Washington, graduating from Central High School. Trained as a photographer in the Marine Corps, he served in the pacific during World War II and then covered D.C. as a tough-talking cameraman. Following a stint as a copy boy for The Washington Post, he joined Acme Newspictures and photographed combat during the Korean War. Later Tretick moved to United Press, documenting Capitol Hill and the presidential campaigns of the fifties. The agency, soon known as United Press International, sent Tretick on the road with Kennedy in 1960; the photographer befriended the candidate and made many of his best pictures during this time. When Kennedy took office, Tretick was given extensive access to the White House and the picture magazine LOOK hired him to cover the President and his family.
Tretick is best known today for the photographs he took of President Kennedy relaxing with his children. Kennedy was well aware of the public relations value of images that depicted him as a family man with a moral agenda. While the President's wife Jackie fought to maintain an umbrella of privacy for young Caroline and John, Jr., Tretick grew close to the family. His photographs of them published in LOOK from 1960 to 1964, helped define the American family of the early sixties and lent Kennedy an endearing credibility that greatly contributed to his popularity. A 1962 LOOK cover of Kennedy driving his nieces and nephews in a golf cart, taken at the family compound in Hyannisport, is akin to the patriotic, illustrative paintings of Norman Rockwell that still graced the covers of The Saturday Evening Post. Tretick's uncanny understanding of the symbolic value of such imagery allowed him to focus on small humanistic moments within the power and politics of Washington.
In October 1963, Stanley Tretick took his most famous photograph for an article about the relationship between the President and his son. While Jackie was away in Greece, Tretick was allowed to join the father and son, walking the halls of the White House and playing together in the Oval Office. As John, Jr. popped his bemused face out from under the President's desk, with Kennedy seated behind, Tretick created an image that embodies both the myth and memory of Camelot. When Kennedy was assassinated several weeks later, these pictures were already on their way to the newsstands and helped create a lasting impression of the man, communicated through photography.
Stanley Tretick died in July 1999 at the age of 77, just days after John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s plane crashed off the coast of Martha's Vineyard.
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Photograph taken by Don Koracs of Stanley Tretick photographing President John F. Kennedy. c. 1961
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