LEWISBORO, N.Y. – John Shearer, a Lewisboro resident and professional photographer who captured many iconic moments across several decades, died on June 22, according to media reports. He was 72.
The long-time Westchester resident was just 16 years old when he snapped perhaps his most memorable shot: A young John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father as the assassinated president’s casket left the church on Nov. 25, 1963.
His photograph of JFK Jr. helped land him a job at Look, a magazine that operated from 1937 to 1971.
Shearer’s father, Ted Shearer, was an art director and illustrator who created the comic strip “Quincy” (1970-1987) and Billy Jo Jive, a children’s book series about an adolescent African-American detective that was later adapted into animated shorts on “Sesame Street.”
One of his father’s friends was Gordon Parks, who was the first African-American staff photographer at LIFE. Shearer would become the second. He also worked for The New York Times.
As a photographer, he bore witness to some of the most significant events of the 20th century, including the Attica riots, anti-war protests in Chicago, the “Fight of the Century” between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, and Dr. Martin Luther King’s memorial.
He eventually retired from news photography and started his own publishing company, which served corporate clients like IBM and Chase.
Shearer won 175 national photography awards, including Photographer of the Year in 1972 (the Association of Magazine Photographers). His work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA and the Whitney Museum, among other cultural institutions.
In April, he received ArtsWestchester’s Artist of the Year Award.
Though he chalked up his iconic shots to being “lucky,” getting the right picture is also about “being ready and knowing your equipment,” Shearer said in an April interview with The Katonah-Lewisboro Times.
“Photography is an art form that happens in one 250th a second,” Shearer said, referring to his camera’s shutter speed.
Though his job put him in some dangerous situations, Shearer said he was never concerned with getting hurt.
“My great concern has always been to come back with the picture,” Shearer said. “You can’t come back with an excuse; you have to come back with a picture.”