Bill Eppridge, the photojournalist behind the iconic and haunting images of Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, has died at the age of 75, the National Press Photographers’ Association said on Thursday.
The association said on its website (www.nppa.org) that Eppridge died in a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut where he had been admitted several weeks ago after a fall that led to a blood infection.
“He extended a helping hand and a bushel of inspiration to me, and his kindness shaped the course of my career,” said friend and fellow photographer David Hume Kennerly, quoted by the NPPA.
As a staff photographer for Life, Eppridge enjoyed privileged access to Kennedy’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, following in the footsteps of his brother John F Kennedy, who was also assassinated.
Eppridge followed Kennedy from a campaign event at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles into the back kitchen where a 24-year-old Palestinian Christian, Sirhan Sirhan, shot and killed the 42-year-old politician.
Photo taken by Bill Eppridge shows presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy campaigning in the Watts section of Los Angeles in 1968. (AP photos)
Of the many black-and-white images that Eppridge took that night, the most enduring depicted Kennedy lying on the floor, mortally wounded, with a halo of light in the background, with a hotel employee at his side.
“You are not just a photojournalist, you’re a historian,” he once explained when asked how he could keep taking pictures after someone he was close to had been shot.
Eppridge, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and moved to the United States with his family as a youngster, covered a wide range of topics for Life and Sports Illustrated, from wars to political campaigns.
His 1965 photo essay about a New York couple addicted to heroin inspired an award-winning Hollywood movie, “The Panic in Needle Park”, starring a young Al Pacino.
Prior to his death, Eppridge and wife Adrienne Aurichio had been finalising a book on another of his Life subjects, the Beatles, to mark next year’s 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s “invasion” of the United States.