The Big Pictures: Local photographer snaps leaders, stars

January 11, 2013
By

With more than 60 years in the photography business, Frederick G.S. Clow has been around the block a few times. From presidents to prime ministers to celebrities, Clow has photographed them all and with class.

The list of notable people he has photographed include President Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedy family.

“You can’t win if you can’t say, ‘Please.’ You have to have manners,” Clow, who maintains residences on Nantucket and on St. Francis Street in Mission Hill, said about one key to being a good photographer.

Clow, who is 81 years old, said other qualities include being low-key and always on alert, paying attention to details and being respectful of everyone.

Clow’s propriety was highlighted after the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969 when former Sen. Edward Kennedy drove a car off a bridge on Martha’s Vineyard, killing a young woman. A publication asked Clow to go down there and take a picture of Ted Kennedy’s wife, Joan, with a drink in her hand to apparently make her look bad.

Clow told the publication to go take the photo itself and said, “I don’t sell my soul for gold.”

Clow was close with the Kennedy family and photographed all three politically-active brothers—Edward, Robert and John. He formed a bond with Edward Kennedy, who wrote the foreword to Clow’s still-in-the-works memoir “Moments in Time,” when he photographed him during his 1962 campaign to become the U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

When Ted Kennedy died in 2009, the Gazette hired Clow to photograph his funeral at Mission Church. Numerous dignataries, including President Barack Obama and former President Clinton, attended the funeral, shining a bright light upon Mission Hill.

Raised in the South End, Clow attended Boston English High School, where he was a photographer for the school newspaper, The Record, and for the yearbook. After graduating from high school, Clow joined the Air Force, where he continued his work as a photographer.

The first time Clow was paid for a picture he took was in 1949. He snapped a photo of India Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru when he visited Boston and was paid $5 by the Boston Sunday Post.

“It was an ace. I got published,” said Clow.

A year earlier, Clow took a picture of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill with a cigar outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, but was unable to get it published.

Over the years, Clow has done photography work for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which he was involved with for 31 years; the Museum of Fine Arts; United Press International; the Inquirer and Mirror in Nantucket; and Jordan Marsh Co.