Reagan Assassination Attempt, 1981 | Contact Sheets

Continuing our year-long series on Contact Sheets, Iconic Photos looks back at the assassination attempt at Ronald Reagan in 1981. 

Mike Evans is best remembered for his 1976 photo of Ronald Reagan wearing a cowboy hat taken at the then candidate’s California ranch while Evans was working for Equus Magazine. The genial photo was later used for campaign buttons and as a model for a statue at the Reagan presidential library, and on the president’s death, appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek and People magazines.

Starting with that photoshoot, Evans and Reagan established a strong rapport that the president asked him to be his personal photographer. It was in such capacity that Evans captured an assassination attempt on the president just 69 days into the Reagan presidency, and narrowly evaded the assassin’s bullets himself. His contact sheets clearly highlighted the wide chasm between the quotidian nature of the trade union event at Washington Hilton where Reagan was previously speaking and the chaotic enormity of the assassination attempt and the brawl that immediately ensued outside.

Evans went on to capture other terse moments, such as Reagan’s heated finger-pointing exchanges with Tip O’Neill inside the Oval Office. His other work during the White House Years, a monumental attempt to document the D.C. denizens — from Supreme Court justices and socialites to the Capitol pages and a janitor (see list in pdf here) — in stark black-and-white portraits rivaled what Richard Avedon did a decade earlier. This work was later published in People and Power: Portraits From the Federal Village

Here, Mike Evans who died in 2005 remembers his Reagan Years:

One day in particular – not a happy day – stands out in my memory. I’ll spare you the details of his attempted assassination, because I’m sure you’ve all read about it a million times. But I clearly remember when I arrived at the hospital and saw the president wheeled by on a gurney. I froze. I knew I had come to respect Ronald Reagan, but I didn’t realize how deeply my affection ran until that moment in the hospital. It came as a complete shock. I felt as if my own father had been shot. I just sat there for an hour, devastated. It never occurred to me to take any pictures.

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0 thoughts on “Reagan Assassination Attempt, 1981 | Contact Sheets

  1. Prophetically, look at the first names of the Reagans, “Ronald”, and “Nancy.” The Ronald part was connected to the victim of the 2012 shooting, Ronald Richard Edberg, a man of Swedish and Norwegian origin, while the Nancy part came from Nancy Lanza, the victim of the worst Elementarty school shooting in the history of North America!

  2. That the Edmonds photos won the Pulitzer means more people are familiar with them. Though one of the nice things about looking at the contact sheet is being able to get a sense of how fast things developed. Edmonds has said how all he could do was hold the shutter button down and let the motor drive kick in. These look to be shot similarly.

  3. MDK,

    I dont remember any of those photos being the “ICONIC” Reagan Assassination Attempt Photo. The one I remember is this one:
    by AP Photographer Ron Edmonds

    All others are boring , by comparison.

    “As an AP staff photographer, Edmonds did not own the negatives or the copyright to the photographs he had made. “I have never seen all of the negatives. I couldn’t tell you how many outtakes there are.” So unlike some freelance photographers at the scene, Edmonds did not make much extra money from his employers. “I got a $50 a week merit raise,” he says.”

    Full Story HERE:

    Your Obt. Svt.

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