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Victory squared

JFK stamp photographer recalls iconic image

Photographer Ted Spiegel
Before the Feb. 20 stamp dedication, Ted Spiegel presents another of his iconic photographs to President Kennedy’s great nephews, Rep. Joe Kennedy III and Matthew Kennedy. The photograph was taken a few minutes before Spiegel snapped the shot that appears on the stamp.

The stoic presidential portrait on the new John Fitzgerald Kennedy stamp has received praise for the photographer who captured it.

But the iconic shot almost didn’t happen.

Ted Spiegel was 26 years old and on assignment for the state of Washington in 1960. Then-Sen. Kennedy was holding a presidential campaign rally at Seattle’s Victory Square.

Spiegel, now 86, remembers Kennedy seated by the podium before his speech.

“He was looking up at office building windows crammed with cheering supporters,” Spiegel said. “It was a highly energetic moment.”

Having elbowed his way to a good shooting position on the platform, Spiegel “put camera to eye and realized the lens had frozen — its focus had locked at 6 feet.”

Spiegel needed to recreate a focusing lens to avoid a blurry shot.

“[I had to] move my body back and forth to achieve sharp focus on his eyes,” Spiegel recalled. “A few clicks and a shift in viewpoint yielded a dramatic image.”

He continued: “For me, this photograph captures Kennedy sensing his responsibility to the public’s response.”

The stamp’s release last month has brought renewed attention to Spiegel, who went on to a storied career in photojournalism.

Though he never met the 35th president, Spiegel feels “strongly that the stamp carries forward [Kennedy’s] outreach to everyone [from] Victory Square and beyond.”

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