The JFK 100


Oswald's "Backyard Photos" faked


Were photographs forged to poison Oswald's image?

 

One of the enduring myths of the JFK assassination is rehashed in Oliver Stone's JFK: that photos of Lee Harvey Oswald with his rifle were forged in order to convince the public that he was JFK's assassin.

 

Susie picks up the famous Life magazine cover shot of Oswald holding a rifle in his backyard.
SUSIE

I even have doubts about this photo, boss. It pretty much convicted Oswald in the public mind. Well, according to Captain Fritz, Oswald told him during his interrogation the photo was fake.

FLASHBACK TO the Dallas Homicide Office in 1963. Oswald is being interrogated by Will Fritz, Dallas Homicide Chief, who shows him the original of the photo from the Williams garage.

OSWALD

That's not me.

FRITZ

It came from Janet William's garage.

OSWALD

Well, I never saw that picture. It is my face, but my face has been super-imposed -- the rest of the picture is not me at all. I've done a lot of photographic work, and that picture was made by someone else....

SUSIE (in the present)

Oswald, who worked for Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall, did know spy photography pretty well. I took this picture to two experts. Look at the way the shadows on the nose fall in a straight line like it's high noon. But the shadow here on the ground reads like late afternoon or early morning. It's not the same time. Also look at the crop marks across the chin. It seems like his head is pasted on somebody else's body implicating him with this rifle and gun.

We see a blowup of the photo - the shadows, the crop mark.

 

As far as the shadows go, author John McAdams writes:

there is a scientific method to check their consistency: vanishing point analysis. Things that are parallel in the real world (railroad tracks, for example) do not generally look parallel in photos but will instead point toward a "vanishing point," which might or might not be in the photograph. Thus if one draws lines connecting points in a photo (say, the muzzle of Oswald's rifle) through the shadow thrown by each point, all the lines should converge at a single vanishing point. In the backyard photos, they do.(1)

 

Article continues below


The House Select Committee's vanishing point analysis

 

The "shadow" argument doesn't hold up, either: the "crop mark" is simply a natural, horizontal indentation in Oswald's chin, apparent in other photographs and films of Oswald (in some more than others).

 


An animated GIF created by researcher John Mytton

 

Those who believe the photos are fake ignore the exhaustive scrutiny the photos underwent at the hands of the expert photographic panel retained by the House Select Committee (HSCA) that reinvestigated the assassination in the late 1970s. Using a variety of sophisticated techniques, such as stereoscopic viewing and grain analysis (see below), the panel determined that the photos contain no evidence of forgery. Read the panel's complete report here.

Oswald's widow, Marina, has confirmed to the Warren Commission, the House Select Committee, and numerous independent researchers that she herself took the photos,(2) which the House Select Committee panel determined were made with Oswald's own Imperial Reflex camera, to the exclusion of all other cameras.

In addition, several people even saw one of the backyard photos before the assassination. He sent a copy of one of the photos to the offices of The Militant's publisher, the Socialist Workers' Party, where several people saw it. As Gus Russo writes, "Sylvia Weinstein, who handled the paper's subscriptions, opened the envelope and thought the man in black was 'kookie.' In her opinion, he had chosen a 'stupid' way to declare his loyalty to the publication. (Weinstein was struck by the apparent ignorance of the man who held The Militant and The Worker [two leftist papers with opposing agendas] together in his hand. Anyone holding both, together with a gun, she said, would have to be assumed to 'really dumb and totally naive.'") "Farrell Dobbs, National Secretary of the Socialist Workers' Party, was appalled and frightened. After suffering a witch hunt and being imprisoned during the McCarthy years, Dobbs feared something much more serious than 'some weirdo' acting out his fantasies. Specifically, he feared a provocateur, and instructed Weinstein to immediately bring to his office any similar material if more arrived."(3)

One print obtained by the HSCA from the widow of Oswald's friend George De Mohrenschildt had a handwritten inscription on the reverse: "To my friend George from Lee Oswald," and the date 5/IV/63 (5 April 1963). The HSCA's panel of experts on questioned documents unanimously judged the handwriting to be that of Lee Harvey Oswald.(4)

 


From Gerald Posner, Case Closed (New York: Random House, 1993)

 

Copyright © 2001, 2011, 2017 by David Reitzes

 

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The JFK 100: Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?

 

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Morph of two of the backyard photos (credit: John Mytton)

 


Oswald's face in each of the three backyard photos (credit: John Mytton)

 

NOTES:

1. John McAdams, JFK Assassination Logic (Dulles, Virginia: Potomac, 2011), p. 163.

2. Warren Commission Report, p. 181. In a 1991 telephone interview with conspiracist author Harrison Edward Livingstone, Marina Oswald Porter told him, "I did take those pictures of Lee. . . . I took them one Sunday. Yes. I swear on my children I'm telling the truth. I do not remember how many. Because I didn't want it; I didn't like it; but two [pictures] I definitely took," because her husband asked her to do it. (According to Livingstone, however, she then stated that she had been standing in a different location in their Neely Street backyard than evident in the photos, casting doubt upon whether the specific photos in evidence were hers. While this may be true, Livingstone does not present a direct quotation from his interview to this effect; instead he quotes from an interview Mrs. Porter is said to have given to Larry Howard of the JFK Assassination Center in Dallas. The footnote Livingstone provides does not correspond to such an interview, however, but to the HSCA's 1979 report and the report of their photographic panel. These sources do not deal with the issue of where Marina was standing, as Marina had never raised the issue with the HSCA.) (Harrison Edward Livingstone, High Treason 2 [New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992], p. 454.) In a 2000 interview with Vincent Bugliosi and researcher Jack Duffy ("who," writes Bugliosi, "has studied the assassination for many years and leans toward the conspiracy theory"), Marina Oswald Porter reaffirmed that she took the famous photos. "That settles that issue," Duffy proclaimed, perhaps a tad too optimistically. (Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History [New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007], p. 1487.)

3. Gus Russo, Live by the Sword (Baltimore: Bancroft, 1998), p. 117.

4. Hearings Before the Select Committee on Assassinations, U.S. House of Representatives, 95th Congress, 2d session (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1979), Vol. 8, p. 230.

 

 

You may wish to see . . .

The JFK 100: Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?

 

Back to the top

Back to The JFK 100

Back to Oliver Stone's JFK

Back to Jim Garrison menu

Back to JFK menu

 

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