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Boris Yaro, Times photographer who took iconic image of mortally wounded RFK, dies at 81

March 12, 2020

As every adult American can recall, on June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was leaving the Ambassador Hotel following his victory in that year’s California Democratic Presidential primary, was shot and killed.

A part-time Los Angeles Times photographer, working on his own time, in hopes of catching a shot for his wall, followed.

“The idea went further than I had expected,” Boris Yaro would write more than 40 years later in a reminiscence of the night he became one of the world’s celebrated photographers.

In the pandemonium of the hotel’s pantry following Kennedy’s shooting by Sirhan B. Sirhan, as the crowd parted from the fallen candidate, Yaro snapped the enduring black-and-white image of a distraught busboy trying to console a mortally wounded hero.

Yaro, who shot news photos for The Times for more than 40 years and along the way tutored the actor who played the news photographer on the TV series “Lou Grant,” died Wednesday at his home in Northridge of natural causes. He was 81.

Although Yaro’s career became defined by the Kennedy photo, he was known to colleagues as a hard-driving but dapper news hound.

In his 2010 recollection of the night of the Kennedy assassination, Yaro said he did not take photos during the shooting.

“It was dark, and I think I was afraid,” he wrote.

When he saw Kennedy sinking to the floor, he realized, “I had better make pictures.”

Then a woman grabbed his sleeve and pleaded with him to stop.

“My response was, ‘Dammit, lady, this is history,’ ” Yaro wrote. “I pulled my coat sleeve loose from her grasp but lost some visual space because people began crowding around the fallen Kennedy.”

The photo, which is part of the permanent collections of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and Museum of Modern Art in New York, did not win the Pulizer Prize, which went that year to an equally enduring shot of the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon.

Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times photographer Don Bartletti said he thought two Pulizers should have been given that year.

“When you look at Boris’ picture of Kennedy from head to foot, with the kitchen worker leaning over him, that is a completely perfect composition with all the necessary elements,” Bartletti said. “His picture is and will remain fantastic.”

Besides his two children, Yaro is survived by his wife, Jill, and a brother.

To read the rest of the article by Los Angeles Times reporter Doug Smith, click HERE.


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