"He used to describe what he did as painting with light," said Thomasina Lowe. "Very rarely did he use artificial lighting. He didn't like to work in that way. He liked to be free with his little camera — very intimate, very real."
"And it, it is, as near as I can tell," Sidey said, "as serious and as profound a record of one of our remarkable episodes in politics as there's been."
Out of the restorations of Lowe's work came a book called Remembering Jack (Had he lived, Kennedy would have been 86 this year). The photos — most of them never seen, but a few that already had been widely published-go back to times before there was a Kennedy mystique.
"It's Jack and Jackie Kennedy in Georgetown, in their doorway, a sunny place," said Sidey. "It makes your heart ache when you look back."
The future President and First Lady were not yet celebrities when many of the photographs were taken. One shows them having coffee, unrecognized, in an Oregon diner in the fall of 1959.
Lowe's favorite photograph showed John Kennedy, brooding on a wharf in Coos Bay, Oregon, after a rough meeting with longshoremen. That photo was one of the famous ones, Sidey said. "He just looked depressed. He looked like a guy that said, you know, 'What am I doing here?'"
"We've exhibited six hundred images," said Ms. Lowe. "Three hundred of them have never been seen. And being able to see the contact sheets, you see the image that came before and you see the image that came after. And you get a sense of time."
"He got more intimate pictures of Jackie than anyone," Sidey said. "Has there ever been a more beautiful woman in public life, in our public life?"
Lowe continued to accompany John and Jacqueline Kennedy after Kennedy's election to the presidency. But Lowe no longer had such exclusive access, and eventually moved on to other projects. He was so shaken by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in 1968 that he left the United States for Europe.
"And with this book I thought, we won't be beaten," said his daughter. "It's the closest I'll ever get to hearing my father's stories and putting them together with the photographs, and for a moment imagining what it might be like or what it might have been like for my dad to be there."
Another book, published this fall, expands and changes the view of the months following the Kennedy assassination, and the impact it had on his wife and family.
It was an unexpected comment from a priest that opened that new chapter of history for Newsday writer Thomas Maier, who was researching a book on the Kennedy family and their Irish-Catholic roots titled The Kennedys, America's Emerald Kings.
In a taped phone conversation in late 2000, Maier asked Father Richard McSorley, who died in October, 2001, about how McSorley had counseled the Kennedy family in the wake of the assassination of John Kennedy. "Did the children ever ask why … if there's a loving God, why … this could happen to somebody like the President?"
"The children never asked me," Father McSorley replied. "Jackie Kennedy asked me."
"It was very clear that it was a very extraordinary chapter in American history," Maier said, "the exchange between this priest and the bereaved First Lady."