Shel Hershorn, photographer captured Kennedy and Oswald
ALBUQUERQUE - Shel Hershorn, a photojournalist who captured iconic images of the civil rights movement and of a fatally wounded Lee Harvey Oswald, has died. He was 82.
Mr. Hershorn died Sept. 17 of pneumonia at a northern New Mexico nursing home, his wife, Sonja, said yesterday.
Born in Denver, he learned aerial photography while serving in the Navy and began his career as a photographer at a newspaper in Casper, Wyo. He moved to Dallas in 1954 to work for the Dallas Times Herald and United Press International.
Sonja Hershorn, of Gallina, N.M., said his charming personality allowed him to muscle into tough spots to get the shots he needed. “He could charm a Texas sheriff out of his gun,’’ she said.
During the 1960 presidential campaign, Mr. Hershorn followed John F. Kennedy, then a senator, and Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson around Texas. He photographed Kennedy in 1963 speaking to a Dallas crowd before his assassination and days later, photographed Lee Harvey Oswald just as he was being loaded into an ambulance after he was shot by Jack Ruby.
The assassination of Kennedy began to turn him away from photojournalism. “After the Kennedy assassination he just lost all hope,’’ said Sonja Hershorn.
In the immediate years following the assassination, Mr. Hershorn worked as a freelance photographer for publications including Life, Fortune, Newsweek, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated. He helped with coverage of Charles Whitman’s shootings on the University of Texas campus including the 1966 Life Magazine cover shot of the University of Texas Tower viewed through bullet-shattered glass.
He would also shoot images of the opening of the Houston Astrodome in 1965 and later of New Mexico-based artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
Mr. Hershorn donated his archives to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.
In 1970, Mr. Hershorn moved outside of Taos, N.M., with the goal of “throwing it all away’’ as a hippie and living without many of the conveniences of modern life. He worked for a time in plumbing and became a furniture maker, his wife said.
He taught photography on the side to actor Dennis Hopper, among others, sharing stories about his photojournalism past.
“I was charmed out, too,’’ said Sonja, who met Mr. Hershorn in New Mexico while she was a teacher. “He’d talked about meeting Martin Luther King Jr., and getting arrested with [comedian] Dick Gregory . . . what are you going to do? I didn’t stand a chance.’’