Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Fabian Bachrach

with 19 comments

Millions of people have seen the above photo, but few, if any, will recall who took the iconic image. Fabian Bachrach, who died last Friday at 92, was best known for his above classic portrait of the-then Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy, which became the official presidential portrait.

In 1959, John Kennedy sat for a Bachrach. When they were developed, none were usable: the images were either out of focus or showed the senator, who endured chronic back pain, standing awkwardly (Kennedy can’t sit still very long either). Although Fabian Bachrach called Kennedy’s office repeatedly for a second session, he was granted an appointment only the next summer. Bachrach flew from Boston to Washington only to find the session cancelled and his subject detained by all-night Senate proceedings. He waited for 8 hours and as he was about to be leave, Kennedy appeared.

The senator gave him only ten minutes. Bachrach took six photos; one in black and white became the presidential portrait while another color one showing Kennedy seated in a leather armchair with an American flag behind him was also widely reproduced.

The patriarch of the oldest continuously operating photo studio in the world, Fabian Bachrach inherited an institution which took official photographs of every American president since Abraham Lincoln. A native Bostonian, Bachrach created the portraits for Joseph P. Kennedy as early as the 1930s, took wedding pictures for JFK and other Kennedys and would went on to craft the official senate portraits for two other Kennedy brothers. International leaders and celebrities all sat for Fabian Bachrach.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

March 3, 2010 at 4:02 am

19 Responses

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  1. This *is* and iconic image, and I had no idea about its background. Once again, thanks for an illuminating read (made all the more interesting because I live in Boston).


    March 3, 2010 at 9:16 pm

  2. I was at an auction in Saint Elmo Illinois, There was an old Still of John F. Kennedy up for bids, when the bids started they started at $25 went down to $5 at which time I bid, To my amazement no one else bid on the portrait, I payed the cost and further to my amazement it came in a beautiful Goldish color frame, judging from the tarnish i would say it’s maybe Brass, copper, or Gold plated, Beautiful none the less and old. The Photo was signatured in white John F. Kennedy with the mentioned caption underneath Color by Fabian Bachrach. There however is no date on the picture.

    The picture portrays as mentioned above Mr. Kennedy sitting in a leather armchair with an American flag hanging on a flag pole revealing only the stripes bihind his left arm (on the right of the portrait). The bottom red stripe has fringe hanging from it, and looks like there was a printing error on the picture for there in that red stripe is a small white distorted line.

    It’s my opinion that Mr. Kennedy was a great president, and his fate was a tragedy. But I fealt like mentioning this portrait just to see how much money I could have witnessed it go for.

    Ryan French

    March 9, 2010 at 2:01 am

    • My parents have the photo and I think the same type of frame you are describing. It has been hanging on their wall in their bedroom since I was a kid. I do you have any other information on this. Please 3mail me at the he email listed thanks.


      December 18, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      • My name is Ever Gray I live in Canada I was given this same print but in a different frame but it is not signed by J.F. Kennedy on the back of the print the is a stamp that says ” another fine product by Davco INC.. subsidiary of Chelsea Industries Peabody Mass.” If you could give me more information on when this print was taken and about how much it could be worth even though I would not sell it as I love the print that would be great. Thank You.

        Ever Gray

        March 17, 2016 at 11:57 pm

  3. Hello, that was definitely an awesome article. I had actually been looking for a photo printing related blog for a while now. Thanks! Do you offer a subscription service? because I can’t seem to find the information anywhere.

    Ffoto framkallning

    March 19, 2010 at 7:50 pm

  4. I was looking for a price on the John F Kennedy color picture as well.
    We have a copy: that we found along with a picture of an indian chief dressed in head dress, but who has a cross on his forehead. No name or tribe, or date included. We found them under some cabinet protectors in our old house.
    Ever since they have been placed directly behind my baby picture. (which incidentally) is printed on the same kind of paper as the indian picture. So since I was born in 63, I figure the indian portrait is fairly old as well.
    I have found a few copies of J. F. Kennedy’s pic online, and the prints seem to be fairly low in price. Perhaps due to it widely being circulated as stated above. Although I cant help but wonder how old either of these pictures really are, and what they cost.
    Any help would be appreciated.

    Deb Cobb

    June 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm

  5. I have a large portrait in frame of JFK. It has Fabian Bachrach in lower left corner and a signature on the lower right corner. I can tell that it is original by the age of the paper. Can anyone tell me its worth? I would consider selling it. You can email me at Thundercross2003@yahoo.com.

    Trent Huse

    August 14, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    • Just wondering if you got an answer on the Fabian Bachrach photo have one too.

      Della Schlicher

      October 21, 2010 at 2:26 am

  6. I have recently found 2 old photographs by Bachrach signed and dated 1923 in an old steamer trunk. The signature is not a reprint. I am unsure who the lady is. How can I find out it’s value? They are very beautiful photographs. Any info would be greatly appreciated.


    Renee Bohon

    September 24, 2010 at 2:54 am

  7. my mother gave me a picture today of john f. kennedy. i am really interested in his backround as well. he is seated in a leather chair with the american flag behind him

    donna witherspoon

    October 15, 2010 at 6:38 pm

  8. […] celebrity photographer in La Dolce Vita. Some names harkened back to Don Draper’s America: Louis Fabian Bachrach, the last patriarch of the esteemed Bachrach Photo Studios; and Peter Gowland, “America’s No. 1 […]

  9. I, too, have one of these JFK portraits. Mine is in a white speckled, matte frame &
    has Kennedy seated in a leather chair with what appearts to be a facsimile auto at
    the bottom right (looking at the photo)& the inscription “Color by Fabian Bachrach”
    below it> The stripes of the American flag can be seen to the extreme right (his
    left) in the picture. The back is paper sealed & taped. No date, nothing. Any info
    including possible worth would be extremely useful. I can be reached at the follow-
    ing email: racefandluxe@yahoo.com. Thanks so much.

    Russ Hoover

    June 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm

  10. I have a fabian bachrach print or oicture on a thick board – the picture is 20″ by 16″ and the wooden frame is 24″ by 20″ and the frame is 1 1/8″ thick – it is stamped Cp on the back – where can I sell this = thanks –bill

    bill andrews

    February 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm

  11. I have a fabian bachrach photo of j edgar hoover. It is also signed. Can you help me ascertain the year of the potrait and authenticity?

    Will Walters

    June 27, 2012 at 1:17 am

  12. I have this exact photograph signed by the late President to my grandfather whom was appointed United States Marshall for the State of Colorado, I have a letter with the photo from the President thanking my grandfather for his service. He was one of 4 US Marshall’s that went to Mississippi right after the bombing in the church in which four long African American children were killed. I also have a letter from the late Robert F. Kennedy (as Attorney General) thanking my grandfather for going to Mississippi.

    Patrick Terrill

    July 24, 2012 at 9:33 pm

  13. i also have a photograph of jfk. It is a black & white portrait issued in a us army envelope no date nice portrait. wondering the value of this portrait tyroneharris357@yahoo.com It is for sale


    December 20, 2012 at 4:18 am

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    October 20, 2014 at 12:52 pm

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    Ezra Wrape

    August 3, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    • This and the color Bacharach photo were widely distributed both when Kennedy became president, and in the years immediately after his assassination. For decades, you couldn’t enter a Catholic Church or Irish Pub without seeing the president’s image looking back at you. Many Catholic Churches handed out copies of these photos for parishioners to display at home alongside then pope Paul IV. Both were icons in that community. So no, these aren’t worth much, suimply due to the volume of them out there.


      November 6, 2017 at 10:17 pm

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