Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dallas artist photographs graves of figures in JFK assassination

From The Dallas Morning News:

While historians lament that characters in the 1963 assassination of 
President John F. Kennedy are dying off, the inevitable plays right into 
Michael Roman’s hands.

Roman, 41, a Dallas artist, has embarked on a project to photograph the 
grave sites of virtually everyone deceased who was connected — however 
indirectly — with the events in Dallas of Nov. 22, 1963.

“It’s kind of like asking where they are now, except you know where they 
are — they’re dead,” Roman said.

   A year into the project, Roman has photographed the final resting 
places of about a third of the 100 people on his list, including Lee 
Harvey Oswald , JFK’s accused assassin; J.D. Tippit, the police officer 
killed by Oswald; Sarah T. Hughes, the federal judge who administered 
the presidential oath of office to Lyndon Johnson; and John Connally, 
the Texas governor shot as he was riding beside JFK.

Roman said he views the effort as an arts project rather than a 
historical documentary. To that end, the photographs are shot using an 
inexpensive Holga camera.

The Holga was originally manufactured as a toy camera for the Asian 
market — and it would seem, at first, to be beneath the notice of any 
serious photographer.

It has just four settings and a plastic lens, and is so poorly made that 
light leaks into the casing. But its faults give the resulting 
photographs a blurry, otherworldly quality that has drawn a cult following.

As a result, Roman’s grave site portfolio has a suitably haunted 
quality. His photograph of the Johnson family cemetery at the LBJ Ranch 
looks like a scene from a horror movie.

  “I take my Nikon along,” Roman said, “but when I set the photos side 
by side along with the Holga, I like what I get with the Holga better.”

Roman, in fact, goes by the pseudonym “Mr. Holga” on the website, where he is managing editor. Using that name, his 
goal is to compile the grave site photographs into a book for the 50th 
anniversary of the assassination in 2013. He does not yet have an agent 
or publisher.

Jim Donovan, a Dallas literary agent (and Holga owner), said such a book 
proposal will likely face lots of competition for the attention of 

“I haven’t seen many JFK book proposals so far, but I expect to see a 
lot more,” he said.

Donovan said questions surrounding the assassination have made it “the 
history mystery of the 20th century,” so conspiracy books remain popular.

He’s less sure about a book of grave site photographs.

“If that’s all it is for an entire book, there would probably be an 
audience of the fanatics, but that’s only a few hundred people,” he said.

   Roman said, however, that he wants to include photographs of 
still-living characters associated with JFK, such as Caroline Kennedy 
and former astronaut and Sen. John Glenn.

  The photographer has a day job as a Web designer, so progress moves in 
fits and starts. He is planning a trip to Washington to take photographs 
of, among others, JFK’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery. It is 
often a matter, he said, of persuading his wife to think of the trips as 
a family vacation.

But so far, he said, she has been supportive.

“When I first thought of the project, I told my wife,” he said. “She 
didn’t tell me she thought it was a bad idea, so that’s when I knew I 
might be on to something.”

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