Notable deaths elsewhere

March 08, 2010|By The Washington Post


Photographer of presidents

Fabian Bachrach, who photographed presidents, kings, celebrities, and thousands of businessmen and brides as the proprietor of the country's oldest portrait photography studio, died Feb. 26 of pneumonia in Newton, Mass.

Mr. Bachrach and his brother, Bradford, were the third generation of their family to operate Bachrach Photography, which was founded by their grandfather in 1868 and became known for its authoritative portraits of America's leadership class. Most of the studio's work consisted of photographing executives, graduates, babies and brides, but for more than 100 years the Bachrachs also specialized in photographing presidents.

Under difficult circumstances in 1959, Mr. Bachrach created a memorable image of John F. Kennedy that captured the youthful spirit of the president-to-be. Earlier that year, Mr. Bachrach had a studio session with Mr. Kennedy, then a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, but Mr. Kennedy was troubled by back pain, and the photographs showed it. With persistence and cajolery, Mr. Bachrach managed to schedule a second session at Mr. Kennedy's Capitol Hill office.

With Mr. Kennedy debating a bill on the Senate floor, his secretary called to cancel the appointment, but Mr. Bachrach showed up with his cameras and lights anyway.

"I said I didn't get the message," he told Boston Business magazine in 1987. "We waited three hours and when Kennedy appeared, he was not particularly pleased to see me."

He had only 10 minutes to snap six images. But one of those photos, in which Mr. Kennedy looked directly into the camera, seemed alive with the strength and charisma of his personality.

It became Mr. Kennedy's official campaign portrait when he ran for president in 1960 and has been reproduced countless times.

"It's really the photograph Jack Kennedy is remembered by," one of Mr. Bachrach's sons, Louis Fabian "Chip" Bachrach III, said last week. "I think Jack Kennedy aged something awful in the three years he was president. Here, he's still a handsome, dashing young man. The world hasn't worn him down that much yet."

Although he came late to photography, at 29, Mr. Bachrach helped develop his studio's signature style of dignity and polish, training photographers to emulate the light and mood of painted portraits by Rembrandt and John Singer Sargent.

"What we try to do is tell the truth in kindly terms," Chip Bachrach said. "It's an art form."

Over the years, Mr. Bachrach photographed Muhammad Ali, Joe DiMaggio, Indira Gandhi, Julia Child, poet Robert Frost, and Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. A coffee-table book of Bachrach portraits was published in 1992.

"People have a very romanticized idea of what photographing famous people is all about," Mr. Bachrach said in 1987. "There's a lot of pressure to get good results, often very quickly. You're under the gun. There isn't a lot of fun in it. It's mostly anxiety."

Mr. Bachrach was in his 80s when he retired from the family business, which is now run by his son Robert. Chip Bachrach, the former chairman of Bachrach Photography, now has a separate photography business.

His wife of 46 years, Janice Daugherty Bachrach, died in 1988.

Survivors include his wife since 1989, Eleanor Volk Bachrach of West Newton, Mass.; four children; five stepchildren; a sister; nine grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

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