Bill Eppridge: “If It Moves, I’ll Shoot It”
Posted on January 24th, 2013
Bill Eppridge is one of the giants of photography. I can’t emphasize this enough: Bill Eppridge didn’t just photograph history, he made history (more on that later). As a LIFE photographer, in the days when photo essays would run for pages and there might be 20 or more photos, he was able to examine the world through his photographs. It’s a shame that this no longer exists.
This is the photo that started Bill‘s career:
He was a student, working for the Missourian, and shot this. It won first place in the National Press Photographers Pictures of the Year competition. His award was an internship at LIFE magazine. Thus began the illustrious career of Bill Eppridge.
From the groundbreaking photographs of “Needle Park,” and the lives of junkies to spending days at Woodstock to photographing the Beatles first visit to America, Bill Eppridge sought to show people worlds they had not seen.
“I tend to look at photographs differently. I want to see what other people are looking at when they’re looking at the subject.”
Bill‘s obvious curiosity, his instinct, and his passion for photography shows in all of his work. He was our eyes to history.
It is the iconic photograph of a bus boy cradling a dying Robert Kennedy after he was shot in California in 1968, while running for president, that is his most famous image. In fact, it is one of the most famous images in American history. Bill was traveling with Kennedy, documenting his campaign in a way that doesn’t exist anymore. The open access he had, and the spontaneity of the potential candidate is a thing of the past. Access was complete, not staged and choreographed as it is today. And Bill was there, our view into the campaign and into the man Kennedy was.
Bill Eppridge/LIFE/TIme Inc.
Bill was there when Kennedy was assassinated, and continued to shoot amidst the chaos, not even looking through the viewfinder so that he missed nothing. And as a result, he took this amazing photograph, where time has stopped, where history in America changed again. You see the shocked face of the bus boy and the outflung arms of Kennedy; as poetic an image as can be imagined at such a horrible time.
And then there is this:
When LIFE magazine folded in 1972, Bill got a call asking him if he wanted the original print made from his negative. He flew to New York to get it, but he couldn’t look at it, so he placed it behind his sofa in Laurel Canyon. Several years later a fire destroyed his home and everything in it. When Bill was sifting through the burned out home, he found this print, partially shielded by the sofa. It is so astonishing that the central image remained.
Bill Eppridge is a lovely man, generous with his time and knowledge, and tells incredible stories. He is still shooting. FOTOFusion here in West Palm Beach, Florida has hung a show of his work. It’s fantastic, and a rare treat. If you are anywhere near the Palm Beach Photographic Center, you must see the work of one of the preeminent photographers of our time. This is not to be missed.