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Original author: 
Vaughn Wallace

Presidential photographers are afforded access to their subjects that most journalists only dream of. Pete Souza, David Hume Kennerly, Eric Draper — all are well-known names in the photographic community for their day in, day out documentation of the White House. Part journalist, part historian and part public-relations agent, the president’s official photographer chronicles both the official and the private workings of some of the most public men in the world.

The beauty of the job is that the photographer — spending nearly every waking second with the Commander-in-Chief, photographing cabinet meetings, foreign trips and ‘off the record’ family events — needn’t decide whether a given moment is important: instead, the official photographer records everything, letting history ascribe significance to the people and instances locked away in the images of the presidential archive.

But what happens when that archive is destroyed? That’s precisely what happened to some 40,000 negatives of the Kennedy family made by Jacques Lowe. Hired two years before JFK entered office, Lowe was charged with documenting the Kennedy family. Just 28 years old when he started in 1958, Lowe chronicled Kennedy’s Senate re-election campaign, his first years as president and the family’s frequent breaks from the spotlight in Hyannis Port, Mass. and McLean, Va. His images strongly shaped and influenced the public perception of the era that would come to be known as Camelot.

“There are no words to describe how attached my father was to his Kennedy negatives,” writes Thomasina Lowe, Jacques’ daughter, in the introduction to Remembering Jack, a book published in 2003 on the 40th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. “They defined who he was as a person and as a photographer. Those images were priceless, their value beyond calculation. So he stored them in a fireproof bank vault in the World Trade Center.”

Estate of Jacques Lowe

Estate of Jacques Lowe

Jacques Lowe at work

Lowe’s original negatives were destroyed on September 11th, 2001, during the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. But miraculously, some 1,500 of Lowe’s contact sheets and prints from the Kennedy file escaped destruction, stored safely at another facility in New York City.

A new exhibition at the Newseum in Washington D.C. highlights 170 of the salvaged  images. Restoring them to recognition, however, was far from easy: a team of seven imaging specialists spent more than 600 hours diligently bringing to life iconic images from fading contact sheets, unpolished work prints and creased proofs.

Indira Williams Babic, the senior manager of visual resources at the museum, explained her team’s exhaustive process to TIME.

“There wasn’t anything first-generation that we could work off of,” she said. “We pored through around 40,000 images, give or take.” Pairing down the initial selection to around 1,000 images, Babic then sorted the photographs into smaller groups by content or location.

After this initial inventory, the Newseum’s design team began to figure out what the show would look like. These decisions dictated the specific restoration challenges ahead, e.g, if the design team wanted 60-inch prints from a 1-inch contact proof covered in pen markings and scratches.

“You know it’s going to be incredibly challenging,” Babic explains, “not to make it look artsy and beautiful, but the way it was supposed to look. We’re a news museum, so at the top of the list, we have to respect the photojournalist and his vision. We’ll make it big, make it beautiful, but make it real — that was the tough part.”

Many of the contact sheets were marked with scratches and printing notes. Babic points to the paradox of finding one of Lowe’s particularly-recognizable images amongst the thousands: the best photographs frequently had the worst damage. More often than not, the iconic frames on the contact sheets were covered with the photographer’s writing or surrounded by an excited scribbled circle. Every inch of stray pen mark could add numerous days to the restorationist’s workload.

Babic described the process as a dance — restoring the recognizable frames that the public expects from Lowe while also remaining realistic about what could be salvaged from the limited sizes of the original proofs.

And even after the team “restored” an image, the team often wasn’t satisfied. In some cases, they started the process over — even after hours of work — when the quality of restoration didn’t feel quite right. “You can click on white specks only so many times…but we didn’t give up,” Babic jokes.

 The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe,”  opening April 12.

Sarah Mercier—Newseum

A Newseum staff member installs a framed gallery print of John F. Kennedy in the exhibit, “Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe,” opening April 12.

Restoring from contact sheets also had this unique advantage: the images immediately surrounding the iconic frame often provided important historical details that the team could use as references. Rather than guessing about a detail that might have been obscured on a well-known image, the team was able to verify objects hidden beneath a scratch or a pen mark by comparing the picture to other, nearby frames.

Thus, more than a decade after the single most horrific and memorable day in modern American history, and just over 50 years after the short, legendary JFK presidency, important pictures that might have been lost to history have, in a sense, been pulled from the ashes.

Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe is on view at the Newseum in Washington D.C. from April 12 through January 5, 2014.

Vaughn Wallace is the producer of LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @vaughnwallace.

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Nerval's Lobster writes "Nate Silver feels a little odd about his fame. That's not to say that he hasn't worked to get to his enviable position. Thanks to his savvy with predictive models, and the huge readership platform provided by The New York Times hosting his FiveThirtyEight blog, he managed to forecast the most recent presidential election results in all 50 states. His accuracy transformed him into a rare breed: a statistician with a household name. But onstage at this year's SXSW conference, Silver termed his fame 'strange' and 'out of proportion,' and described his model as little more than averaging the state and national polls, spiced a bit with his algorithms. "It bothered me that this was such a big deal," he told the audience. In politics, he added, most of the statistical analysis being conducted simply isn't good, which lets someone like him stand out; same as in baseball, where he made his start in predictive modeling. In fields with better analytics, the competition for someone like him would be much fiercer. He also talked about, despite a flood of data (and the tools to analyze it) in the modern world, we still face huge problems when it comes to actually understanding and using that data. 'You have a gap between what we think we know and what we really know,' he said. 'We tend to be oversensitive to random fluctuations in the data and mistake the fluctuations for real relationships.'"

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Obama’s in the news a lot, partly because he’s kind of in charge of the world, and partly because he’s outrageously photogenic. Bear in mind it takes a lot more than good-looks to be photogenic — being completely comfortable in your own skin, having great style and being in interesting places helps a lot too, which in Obama’s case is not difficult.

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How states have shifted

Mike Bostock and Shan Carter visualized how states have shifted parties over the years, going back to 1952.

Recent elections have placed a heavy emphasis on "swing states" — Ohio, Florida, and a handful of other states most-easily swayed from one party to the other. Yet in the past, many more states shifted between the Democratic and Republican parties. A look at how the states stack up in the current FiveThirtyEight forecast and how they have shifted over past elections.

Each row represents an election, and the horizontal axis reflects the size of a lead for a party. So as you scroll down, you can see how much (or little) a state has changed across elections.

Instead of taking the obvious exploratory route, where you select your state and scroll to the bottom, Bostock and Carter took a story-driven approach. Points of interest are on the left. Click on a button and the relevant states for that insight are highlighted. (Although you can still mouse over states to see their paths and keep states highlighted by with a continuous scroll.) This is a good one worth exploring for a while.

See also Adrien Friggeri's interactive from earlier this year that shows Senate agreement.

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Events celebrating and protesting LGBT rights took place in many parts of the world in the last several months. Pride parades were met with violence or intimidation in Russia, Georgia, and Albania while other places saw wild street parties. Three million people celebrated on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, often considered the biggest Pride event in the world. Activists in Uganda and Chile sought to change laws, while in the United States Barack Obama became the first American president to endorse same-sex marriage. Gathered here are pictures from events related to gay rights issues, LGBT Pride celebrations, and the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. -- Lane Turner (39 photos total)
Mark Wilson carries a rainbow flag during San Francisco's 42nd annual gay pride parade on June 24, 2012. Organizers said more than 200 floats, vehicles and groups of marchers took part in the parade. (Noah Berger/Associated Press)

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This is big on the internet today: some dude on Reddit announced that he’d been playing the same game of Civilization II for the past 10 years. If you’re not familiar, Civ II (released in 1996) is, like the rest of the Civilization series (we’re at Civ V now), an empire-building game that takes place through world history and into the future to infinity. You don’t necessarily win through military might, but through a variety of different avenues, like technological might or cultural superiority. They’re some of the best games ever. After 10 years, the aforementioned Civ II player — Reddit handle: Lycerius — has reached the year 3991 A.D. and Earth is basically a hellscape of scant natural resources supporting vast armies, while the people starve and fallout poisons everything.

His conclusions are worth sharing:

I’ve been playing the same game of Civ II for 10 years. Though long outdated, I grew fascinated with this particular game because by the time Civ III was released, I was already well into the distant future. I then thought that it might be interesting to see just how far into the future I could get and see what the ramifications would be. Naturally I play other games and have a life, but I often return to this game when I’m not doing anything and carry on. The results are as follows.
The world is a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation.

There are 3 remaining super nations in the year 3991 A.D, each competing for the scant resources left on the planet after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands.

- The ice caps have melted over 20 times (somehow) due primarily to the many nuclear wars. As a result, every inch of land in the world that isn’t a mountain is inundated swamp land, useless to farming. Most of which is irradiated anyway.

- As a result, big cities are a thing of the distant past. Roughly 90% of the worlds population (at it’s peak 2000 years ago) has died either from nuclear annihilation or famine caused by the global warming that has left absolutely zero arable land to farm. Engineers (late game worker units) are always busy continuously building roads so that new armies can reach the front lines. Roads that are destroyed the very next turn when the enemy goes. So there isn’t any time to clear swamps or clean up the nuclear fallout.

- Only 3 super massive nations are left. The Celts (me), The Vikings, And the Americans. Between the three of us, we have conquered all the other nations that have ever existed and assimilated them into our respective empires.

- You’ve heard of the 100 year war? Try the 1700 year war. The three remaining nations have been locked in an eternal death struggle for almost 2000 years. Peace seems to be impossible. Every time a cease fire is signed, the Vikings will surprise attack me or the Americans the very next turn, often with nuclear weapons. Even when the U.N forces a peace treaty. So I can only assume that peace will come only when they’re wiped out. It is this that perpetuates the war ad infinitum. Have any of you old Civ II players out there ever had this problem in the post-late game?

- Because of SDI, ICBMS are usually only used against armies outside of cities. Instead, cities are constantly attacked by spies who plant nuclear devices which then detonate (something I greatly miss from later civ games). Usually the down side to this is that every nation in the world declares war on you. But this is already the case so its no longer a deterrent to anyone. My self included.

- The only governments left are two theocracies and myself, a communist state. I wanted to stay a democracy, but the Senate would always over-rule me when I wanted to declare war before the Vikings did. This would delay my attack and render my turn and often my plans useless. And of course the Vikings would then break the cease fire like clockwork the very next turn. Something I also miss in later civ games is a little internal politics. Anyway, I was forced to do away with democracy roughly a thousand years ago because it was endangering my empire. But of course the people hate me now and every few years since then, there are massive guerrilla (late game barbarians) uprisings in the heart of my empire that I have to deal with which saps resources from the war effort.

- The military stalemate is air tight. The post-late game in civ II is perfectly balanced because all remaining nations already have all the technologies so there is no advantage. And there are so many units at once on the map that you could lose 20 tank units and not have your lines dented because you have a constant stream moving to the front. This also means that cities are not only tiny towns full of starving people, but that you can never improve the city. “So you want a granary so you can eat? Sorry; I have to build another tank instead. Maybe next time.”

- My goal for the next few years is to try and end the war and thus use the engineers to clear swamps and fallout so that farming may resume. I want to rebuild the world. But I’m not sure how. If any of you old Civ II players have any advice, I’m listening.

I love that he’s not done, nor does he seem particularly tired of the game. Me, I have no advice. I’m sure you could have fun for days with the analogs between our world and his Civ II history, but he’s still playing a game. I can’t say how many times I’ve pushed the red button, so to speak, to launch all-out nuclear war in this or that game. That said, we live in privileged times — still — and a whole lot of brutality is going to have to go down over the next 1,979 years.

Reach this writer at michaelb@motherboard.tv.

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THUMBS DOWN
THUMBS DOWN: Women in the House gallery in Concord, N.H., showed their displeasure as New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled House voted Wednesday to allow employers with religious objections to exclude contraceptive coverage from their health plans. The House voted 196-150 to send the bill to the Senate. (Jim Cole/Associated Press)

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WIND IN THEIR HAIR: Visitors reacted to the rotor wash of the Marine One helicopter as President Barack Obama took off from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington Wednesday, on his way to North Carolina. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

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SLEEPING LIKE A BABY: Three-year-old homeless boy Sarwar slept in a hammock along a sidewalk in Mumbai on Wednesday. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

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