Only moments before, he had been listening intently to a victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
Now, he was hearing gunfire around him.
The man giving the speech had just been shot dead. That man was Sen Robert Kennedy.
The man who had been listening to the speech, amongst others, was a chap called Eppridge……Guillermo Eppridge to give him his full name, later known as Bill.
Bill was born in Buenos Aires, but later moved to the USA, living in Virginia and Tennessee. His love of photography was triggered one day when a photographer riding past Bill’s house on his horse stopped to take a photo of Bill and his sister.
They say that whatever we see during our younger days very often influences what we do later on in life…so it was with Bill. At school, he started taking photos for his school and later on in his teenager years, he continued to produce shots for his local newspaper.
That evolved to his first proper job in the trade, with an assignment from National Geographic, after which he moved to work for Life magazine. When that closed down in the 70s, he began covering major events on a freelance basis, such as the Americas Cup and the Olympics.
But back to that fateful day when Robert Kennedy was shot. Bill had been covering that event and after Kennedy’s speech came to an end, he (Kennedy) had decided to leave the hotel via the kitchen in order to avoid the hoards of people and reporters encamped outside. Little was he to know of the danger that awaited him in the kitchen, for it was there that he was shot and killed. Bill found him on the floor in a pool of blood, his head being held up by the kitchen porter whose hand Kennedy had been shaking just seconds earlier.
Without thinking, he had quickly focussed his camera, taking several shots, one of which became famous the world over, capturing a chilling moment in the history of American politics as yet another Kennedy was gunned down shortly before reaching the White House.
“I think that kind of a situation has got to be documented , it has to be told, and it has to be told to people who do not understand the horrors we can face….I know it was the right thing to do” Bill later said. ”
What was kind of weird to Bill was that only days before the shooting, he took some great shots of Robert looking relaxed and carefree on a beach in Oregon, running along with his dog Freckles and waving to supporters. Soon he became quite close to Kennedy as he was always there at his many campaigns, and with that closeness came the realization that “someone, sometime was going to try something…but it was never spoken…” as Bill put it.
A kinda sad story but I think it goes a long way to illustrate how us photographers can be in some place at the right time, by coincidence or otherwise, and come away with a shot that could well be of such immense importance that it wakes up everyone all around the globe, wherever it is seen.
all photos flickr.com