The Kennedys | Portrait of a Family: Photographs by Richard Avedon

On view at the Peabody Essex Museum April 17, 2010 through July 18, 2010

SALEM, MA -- The sitter was a young president on the verge of taking office. The photographer was an internationally-celebrated fashion and portrait photographer at the top of his game. The Peabody Essex Museum presents the striking results of this historic meeting with The Kennedys| Portrait of a Family: Photographs by Richard Avedon - an exhibition of photographs taken of president-elect John F. Kennedy and his young family weeks before moving into the White House. Iconic images are presented with the contact sheets from which they were selected to reveal the editorial choices made to influence public perception.

On January 3, 1961, Richard Avedon arrived at the Kennedy home in Palm Beach, Florida, to photograph the family for Harper's Bazaar and Look magazines. Filled with promise and portent, these were the only formal pictures taken of Kennedy between his election and inauguration. While the images are expertly shot and the Kennedys themselves radiated personal power and charisma, it was the selection of photographs for publication that was key in crafting the public personas of America's first media-friendly power couple.

Created by the National Museum of American History and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), this exhibition was prepared for PEM by Curator of Photography, Phillip Prodger. "We are delighted to be the exclusive New England venue for this important exhibition," said Prodger, "It is rare to be able to see a group of pictures that helps us understand the way a photographer's mind works the way this show does. It tells the incredible story of how one of America's favorite, most influential photographers crossed paths with the Kennedys for one magical day in the winter of 1961."

Making the Myth

Icsn Portrait of a Family, the combination of individual prints with enlarged contact sheets made for exhibition enables visitors to experience firsthand the decisions Avedon made in preparing his pictures for Harper's Bazaar. Together they reveal the decisions Avedon made when editing his pictures, showing the frames the artist decided to use and the ones he set aside, as well as the cropping, retouching, and other alterations that went into finalizing the images. Each choice was very consciously made to project a particular mood, meaning, or manner of being.

In the mid-1990s Avedon donated the photographs and their negatives to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. This priceless gift chronicles the intersection of two American icons at a formative time in history, and helps us understand the working methods of one of the masters of photography in the twentieth century.


Members of the press are invited to an evening of Cocktails & Conversation on Tuesday, April 13th from 6:30 - 8 pm.  Join PEM's Curator of Photography, Phillip Prodger, for an advance preview and private tour of The Kennedys| Portrait of a Family: Photographs by Richard Avedon and learn more about PEM's photography initiativesPlease RSVP by April 5th to Whitney Riepe at or 978-745-9500 x3228.


The Kennedys: Portrait of a Family by Shannon Thomas Perich (Collins Design, 2007) is available for sale in the PEM Shop and online at


Created by the National Museum of American History and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), The Kennedys | Portrait of a Family is supported by the Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. Fund and Collins Design, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. The exhibition and national tour are sponsored by The History Channel.



All images courtesy National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Photographs by Richard Avedon, 1961.


Imprints: Photographs by Mark Ruwedel
Marianne Mueller: Archive
Ansel Adams: At the Water's Edge
Helen Levitt: In a New York Minute
The Mind's Eye: Fifty Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann

Walker Evans/Samuel Chamberlain
Masahisa Fukase: The Solitude of Ravens
Jo Ractliffe: Document


The Peabody Essex Museum presents art and culture from New England and around the world. The museum's collections are among the finest of their kind, showcasing an unrivaled spectrum of American art and architecture (including four National Historic Landmark buildings) and outstanding Asian, Asian Export, Native American, African, Oceanic, Maritime and Photography collections. In addition to its vast collections, the museum offers a vibrant schedule of changing exhibitions and a hands-on education center. The museum campus features numerous parks, period gardens and 22 historic properties, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States.

HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday and holiday Mondays, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

ADMISSION: Adults $15; seniors $13; students $11. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $5. Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang.

INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit our Web site at 


PR Contacts:

Whitney Van Dyke  -  Director of Communications  -  978-542-1828  -

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