Jody Powell and the Sixth Sense


No, that’s not the name of my band that I’m going to form once I come up with a new name, although I think I might put it on the short list…

This is just me free-associating from one post to the next.

Back on this one, I said something about how some politicians seem to have a sixth sense about when a camera is pointing at them. Or at least, they did back in my reporting days (when I, more often than not, was my own photographer).

That got me to thinking about this picture that I ran across recently while sorting through old files. It’s a print I made from a shot I took at the Democrats’ mid-term national convention in Memphis in 1978. This was that didn’t go well for Jimmy Carter, whereas Ted Kennedy was greeted lovingly. They went wild for his presentation before a panel on health care reform (yes, we’ve been talking about it that long), during which I took the shot below (I wish I could find the negative from which I cropped this image of Kennedy, because as I recall, one of the panelists behind him was a baby-faced guy from Arkansas named Bill Clinton). Two years later, the party’s left wing would unite behind Kennedy in full-scale revolt against their own incumbent president.

And yes, I realize the Kennedy picture is low-quality. But I shot it on Tri-X with low ambient light, and blew up this portion of the frame, so gimme a break…

Anyway, where was I? … oh yes, the Sixth Sense.

I was looking around and saw Jody Powell sitting on that table at the back of the room a few feet from me. He was unnoticed for the moment by everyone else, and he was relaxing with a cigar and a bottle of beer. As I aimed and focused the Nikkormat and manually adjusted the exposure (and yes, Burl, it was the Tiger tank of cameras; I loved the one that the paper assigned to me), without looking at me, he very deliberately moved the beer in his right hand down to where I couldn’t get it in the picture. I mean, heaven forbid anybody from the Carter White House should be seen having a good time.

Dang. But I took the picture anyway.

And yes, I realize both of these guys died this year, so consider this their official blog elegy.

Ted Kennedy

7 thoughts on “Jody Powell and the Sixth Sense

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    So you photograph dead people….

    Get it—-Sixth Sense…


    Jody Powell.

    You are indeed a font of late seventies/early eighties political arcana. Makes me feel a combination of smug, because I know the references, although I was only in college studying English, and old.

    I almost ran into Jimmy Carter coming around the corner at Emory Law School once. Those were the days. I guess the Secret Service didn’t care so much by the time Reagan was in office. I didn’t get a photo.

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