April 9, 2013 4:00 AM EDT

Presidential photographers are afforded access to their subjects that most journalists only dream of. Pete Souza, David Hume Kennerly, Eric Draper — all are well-known names in the photographic community for their day in, day out documentation of the White House. Part journalist, part historian and part public-relations agent, the president’s official photographer chronicles both the official and the private workings of some of the most public men in the world.

The beauty of the job is that the photographer — spending nearly every waking second with the Commander-in-Chief, photographing cabinet meetings, foreign trips and ‘off the record’ family events — needn’t decide whether a given moment is important: instead, the official photographer records everything, letting history ascribe significance to the people and instances locked away in the images of the presidential archive.

But what happens when that archive is destroyed? That’s precisely what happened to some 40,000 negatives of the Kennedy family made by Jacques Lowe. Hired two years before JFK entered office, Lowe was charged with documenting the Kennedy family. Just 28 years old when he started in 1958, Lowe chronicled Kennedy’s Senate re-election campaign, his first years as president and the family’s frequent breaks from the spotlight in Hyannis Port, Mass. and McLean, Va. His images strongly shaped and influenced the public perception of the era that would come to be known as Camelot.

“There are no words to describe how attached my father was to his Kennedy negatives,” writes Thomasina Lowe, Jacques’ daughter, in the introduction to Remembering Jack, a book published in 2003 on the 40th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. “They defined who he was as a person and as a photographer. Those images were priceless, their value beyond calculation. So he stored them in a fireproof bank vault in the World Trade Center.”

I'm not much for anniversary retrospectives concerning classic video game systems. Not that there's zero value in examining history, but the older a console gets, the more it feels like we're recycling the same <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/21/nintendo-game-boy-25-facts-for-its-25th-anniversary">factoids</a> every time a gaming system reaches another large, round number.
                        
                        So it goes with the Nintendo Game Boy, which launched in Japan on April 21, 1989. In case your memory is foggy from the <a href="http://www.1up.com/features/20-years-game-boy">last round of retrospectives</a> five years ago, you'll find more <a href="http://technology.inquirer.net/35591/nintendos-trailblazing-game-boy-marks-25th-anniversary">look-backs</a> around the Internet on today's 25th anniversary. (<a href="http://www.usgamer.net/articles/the-game-boy-legacy-a-25th-anniversary-celebration">Jeremy Parish's write-up</a> for USGamer is pretty good.)
                        
                        Personally, I prefer to let the above video do all the talking. That little start screen is all I need to unlock a trove of memories, from stuffing too many cartridges into my carrying case at home to slumping in the corner of a dingy gym next to my best friend, playing <em>Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan</em> while his mom Jazzercised.
                        
                        Happy 25th anniversary, Game Boy. (Estate of Jacques Lowe)
I'm not much for anniversary retrospectives concerning classic video game systems. Not that there's zero value in examining history, but the older a console gets, the more it feels like we're recycling the same factoids every time a gaming system reaches another large, round number. So it goes with the Nintendo Game Boy, which launched in Japan on April 21, 1989. In case your memory is foggy from the last round of retrospectives five years ago, you'll find more look-backs around the Internet on today's 25th anniversary. (Jeremy Parish's write-up for USGamer is pretty good.) Personally, I prefer to let the above video do all the talking. That little start screen is all I need to unlock a trove of memories, from stuffing too many cartridges into my carrying case at home to slumping in the corner of a dingy gym next to my best friend, playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan while his mom Jazzercised. Happy 25th anniversary, Game Boy.
Estate of Jacques Lowe

Lowe’s original negatives were destroyed on September 11th, 2001, during the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. But miraculously, some 1,500 of Lowe’s contact sheets and prints from the Kennedy file escaped destruction, stored safely at another facility in New York City.

A new exhibition at the Newseum in Washington D.C. highlights 170 of the salvaged images. Restoring them to recognition, however, was far from easy: a team of seven imaging specialists spent more than 600 hours diligently bringing to life iconic images from fading contact sheets, unpolished work prints and creased proofs.

Indira Williams Babic, the senior manager of visual resources at the museum, explained her team’s exhaustive process to TIME.

“There wasn’t anything first-generation that we could work off of,” she said. “We pored through around 40,000 images, give or take.” Pairing down the initial selection to around 1,000 images, Babic then sorted the photographs into smaller groups by content or location.

After this initial inventory, the Newseum’s design team began to figure out what the show would look like. These decisions dictated the specific restoration challenges ahead, e.g, if the design team wanted 60-inch prints from a 1-inch contact proof covered in pen markings and scratches.

“You know it’s going to be incredibly challenging,” Babic explains, “not to make it look artsy and beautiful, but the way it was supposed to look. We’re a news museum, so at the top of the list, we have to respect the photojournalist and his vision. We’ll make it big, make it beautiful, but make it real — that was the tough part.”

Many of the contact sheets were marked with scratches and printing notes. Babic points to the paradox of finding one of Lowe’s particularly-recognizable images amongst the thousands: the best photographs frequently had the worst damage. More often than not, the iconic frames on the contact sheets were covered with the photographer’s writing or surrounded by an excited scribbled circle. Every inch of stray pen mark could add numerous days to the restorationist’s workload.

Babic described the process as a dance — restoring the recognizable frames that the public expects from Lowe while also remaining realistic about what could be salvaged from the limited sizes of the original proofs.

And even after the team “restored” an image, the team often wasn’t satisfied. In some cases, they started the process over — even after hours of work — when the quality of restoration didn’t feel quite right. “You can click on white specks only so many times…but we didn’t give up,” Babic jokes.

Finally, after a season premiere that saw most of its characters treading water, Sunday's <em>Mad Men</em> was full of the kinds of boiling points, breakdowns and breakthroughs fans have been waiting for. And for once — maybe the episode's Valentine's Day theme had the writers in a good mood — almost all the characters walked away happy.
                        
                        When he's not stuffing his face with Ritz crackers, Don Draper is still trying to pretend he's not an unemployed alcoholic, but word of his Hershey meltdown has spread, and the lunch meetings he's set up to get out of the house aren't fooling anybody. Sally already saw Don in one compromising position (on top of Sylvia, cheating on the world's coolest step mom), and here Sally finds him in another when she shows up at SC&amp;P only to find Lou Avery in her dad's old office (no nude <em>Freaks and Geeks</em> alumna in sight, though). Just as Sally catches him in a lie about what he's been up to, Don catches her in a lie about just how much she knows, and the two spend several minutes trying to out-Draper one another until Matthew Weiner and company bust out some character development. Sally seems perfectly content to lord parental disappointment over his head as she does with Betty, but when Don confronts her about his current situation, she admits that seeing her father for who he really is actually traumatized her (to say nothing of the fact that he was totally doin' it with the neighbor). "It's more embarrassing for me to catch you in a lie than for you to be lying," she tells him.
                        
                        Don's awkward attempts at making conversation with Sally indicate he won't be polishing a Father of the Year trophy anytime soon — after all, his idea of a bonding experience is to dine and ditch — but Don knows that repairing their relationship beats wasting daylight with his new roommate the cockroach. The sincere effort pays off surprisingly quickly, with Sally tossing Don an "I love you" that even he's shocked to hear by the end of the episode.
                        
                        Back at the office, Joan is roped into her coworkers' petty drama, rearranging secretary assignments to quell the completely displaced rage of Peggy and Lou Avery. Joan's got better things to do (like her Avon account), but she flares her tempter in front of Jim Cutler, who realizes she's overworked and immediately gives her a nicer office. Up until this point, Jim was the least interesting of all the partners, but Sunday's episode suggests he's not only one of the more attentive bosses (seriously, someone only <em>just</em> noticed that Joan works harder than anybody?), he's also capable of a power play — his elevator remarks to Roger after butting heads throughout the episode sound like both an olive branch and threat. (Jim Cutler may seem like a nice guy now, but, to me, Harry Hamlin will always be the character that did [redacted horrible thing] to [redacted character] on <em>Veronica Mars, </em>and I'll never stop being suspicious.)
                        
                        Joan's old office ends up going to Dawn, and it's hard not to see the quasi-promotion as a reward for her speaking up as well. After Sally shows up in Lou's doorway while Dawn was out, Lou demands Joan reassign Dawn, but not before Dawn pipes up to say it was his own damn fault — she was out picking a Valentine's Day gift for his wife when Sally materialized. The outburst is, of course, what everyone who watches <em>Mad Men</em> has been thinking for years: How many times is some old white dude going to take his screw-ups out on somebody else before getting called out? More importantly, though, it puts Dawn, who's been supplying Don with updates on the company's accounts, in a better position to assist the Draper comeback that seems more likely than ever now.
                        
                        The two characters who didn't really get what they wanted this episode were Peggy and Pete. They have a few things in common: Their names both start with P, they once made a baby together, and they both deserve to have viral Tumblrs made in their honor: Pete Campbell's Bitchface (<a href="http://petecampbellsbitchface.tumblr.com/">which already exists</a>) and Peggy Crying Behind Closed Doors (which is bound to happen at the rate this season is going.)
                        
                        Sympathies for Peggy's sadsack routine are dwindling, and her fixation on the Valentine's Day flowers she mistakes as a present from Ted felt like something out of a Tuesday night on Fox. It's one thing for Mindi Lahiri or Jess Day to misinterpret signals and treat break-ups like battles to be won, but when Peggy gestures to the roses and shouts, "Are these some symbol of how much we're loved?" it's neither adorkable, insightful, nor funny, really — it just reveals how much of a mess she is. The creative team's quips about how she's not getting laid seemed cruel at first, but after observing the self-centered temper tantrum Peggy throws in this episode, it's no wonder she's the butt of their jokes. Just look at what they have to deal with on a regular basis.
                        
                        Ted isn't having the time of his life following their affair, either, but at least he keeps it together enough to remain the show's sole voice of reason while Pete feels — surprise! — under-appreciated in Los Angeles. Pete's existential hissyfit is only interesting for two reasons: First, it's set off by the imminent return of the mysterious Bob Benson, who's been in Detroit; second, it sends him running to his real estate agent girlfriend Bonnie (Jessy Schram, who, like Hamlin, also did a stint on <em>Veronica Mars</em>). Instead of some afternoon delight, though, she gives Pete a reality check and savvy business advice: If you want something, you have to fight to take it.
                        
                        No, the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" didn't start playing — that's 10 months away in the <em>Mad Men</em> universe – but the title of Sunday's episode, "A Day's Work," almost makes the same point: If you speak up and put a little work in, you might find you get what you need. (Sarah Mercier—Newseum)
Finally, after a season premiere that saw most of its characters treading water, Sunday's Mad Men was full of the kinds of boiling points, breakdowns and breakthroughs fans have been waiting for. And for once — maybe the episode's Valentine's Day theme had the writers in a good mood — almost all the characters walked away happy. When he's not stuffing his face with Ritz crackers, Don Draper is still trying to pretend he's not an unemployed alcoholic, but word of his Hershey meltdown has spread, and the lunch meetings he's set up to get out of the house aren't fooling anybody. Sally already saw Don in one compromising position (on top of Sylvia, cheating on the world's coolest step mom), and here Sally finds him in another when she shows up at SC&P only to find Lou Avery in her dad's old office (no nude Freaks and Geeks alumna in sight, though). Just as Sally catches him in a lie about what he's been up to, Don catches her in a lie about just how much she knows, and the two spend several minutes trying to out-Draper one another until Matthew Weiner and company bust out some character development. Sally seems perfectly content to lord parental disappointment over his head as she does with Betty, but when Don confronts her about his current situation, she admits that seeing her father for who he really is actually traumatized her (to say nothing of the fact that he was totally doin' it with the neighbor). "It's more embarrassing for me to catch you in a lie than for you to be lying," she tells him. Don's awkward attempts at making conversation with Sally indicate he won't be polishing a Father of the Year trophy anytime soon — after all, his idea of a bonding experience is to dine and ditch — but Don knows that repairing their relationship beats wasting daylight with his new roommate the cockroach. The sincere effort pays off surprisingly quickly, with Sally tossing Don an "I love you" that even he's shocked to hear by the end of the episode. Back at the office, Joan is roped into her coworkers' petty drama, rearranging secretary assignments to quell the completely displaced rage of Peggy and Lou Avery. Joan's got better things to do (like her Avon account), but she flares her tempter in front of Jim Cutler, who realizes she's overworked and immediately gives her a nicer office. Up until this point, Jim was the least interesting of all the partners, but Sunday's episode suggests he's not only one of the more attentive bosses (seriously, someone only just noticed that Joan works harder than anybody?), he's also capable of a power play — his elevator remarks to Roger after butting heads throughout the episode sound like both an olive branch and threat. (Jim Cutler may seem like a nice guy now, but, to me, Harry Hamlin will always be the character that did [redacted horrible thing] to [redacted character] on Veronica Mars, and I'll never stop being suspicious.) Joan's old office ends up going to Dawn, and it's hard not to see the quasi-promotion as a reward for her speaking up as well. After Sally shows up in Lou's doorway while Dawn was out, Lou demands Joan reassign Dawn, but not before Dawn pipes up to say it was his own damn fault — she was out picking a Valentine's Day gift for his wife when Sally materialized. The outburst is, of course, what everyone who watches Mad Men has been thinking for years: How many times is some old white dude going to take his screw-ups out on somebody else before getting called out? More importantly, though, it puts Dawn, who's been supplying Don with updates on the company's accounts, in a better position to assist the Draper comeback that seems more likely than ever now. The two characters who didn't really get what they wanted this episode were Peggy and Pete. They have a few things in common: Their names both start with P, they once made a baby together, and they both deserve to have viral Tumblrs made in their honor: Pete Campbell's Bitchface (which already exists) and Peggy Crying Behind Closed Doors (which is bound to happen at the rate this season is going.) Sympathies for Peggy's sadsack routine are dwindling, and her fixation on the Valentine's Day flowers she mistakes as a present from Ted felt like something out of a Tuesday night on Fox. It's one thing for Mindi Lahiri or Jess Day to misinterpret signals and treat break-ups like battles to be won, but when Peggy gestures to the roses and shouts, "Are these some symbol of how much we're loved?" it's neither adorkable, insightful, nor funny, really — it just reveals how much of a mess she is. The creative team's quips about how she's not getting laid seemed cruel at first, but after observing the self-centered temper tantrum Peggy throws in this episode, it's no wonder she's the butt of their jokes. Just look at what they have to deal with on a regular basis. Ted isn't having the time of his life following their affair, either, but at least he keeps it together enough to remain the show's sole voice of reason while Pete feels — surprise! — under-appreciated in Los Angeles. Pete's existential hissyfit is only interesting for two reasons: First, it's set off by the imminent return of the mysterious Bob Benson, who's been in Detroit; second, it sends him running to his real estate agent girlfriend Bonnie (Jessy Schram, who, like Hamlin, also did a stint on Veronica Mars). Instead of some afternoon delight, though, she gives Pete a reality check and savvy business advice: If you want something, you have to fight to take it. No, the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" didn't start playing — that's 10 months away in the Mad Men universe – but the title of Sunday's episode, "A Day's Work," almost makes the same point: If you speak up and put a little work in, you might find you get what you need.
Sarah Mercier—Newseum

Restoring from contact sheets also had this unique advantage: the images immediately surrounding the iconic frame often provided important historical details that the team could use as references. Rather than guessing about a detail that might have been obscured on a well-known image, the team was able to verify objects hidden beneath a scratch or a pen mark by comparing the picture to other, nearby frames.

Thus, more than a decade after the single most horrific and memorable day in modern American history, and just over 50 years after the short, legendary JFK presidency, important pictures that might have been lost to history have, in a sense, been pulled from the ashes.


Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe is on view at the Newseum in Washington D.C. from April 12 through January 5, 2014.

Vaughn Wallace is the producer of LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @vaughnwallace.


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