Up for auction: prints that record the moment Kennedy was shot

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The Independent Online

Rare original photographic prints of the moment John F. Kennedy was assassinated are to go on sale next month at Christie's.

It is believed to be the first time the set of six 1963 original prints, taken from film by an amateur cameraman, Abraham Zapruder, have appeared on the international auction market.

Zapruder, an interior designer who enjoyed making amateur films, was one of thousands who gathered in Dallas on 22 November 1963 to watch the presidential motorcade as the Kennedys travelled through the city in an open-top limousine.

Standing on Elm Street holding his 8mm movie camera set on "telephoto", Zapruder captured the moment Lee Harvey Oswald fired a series of bullets into the president's car. His 26-second footage was the only clear film from the crowd to show Kennedy being shot. It provided vital evidence in the official inquiry into the assassination, and became iconic after the images were published by Life magazine.

The film, which was converted into stills by the Associated Press agency and distributed to the press at the time, includes an image of Jackie Kennedy climbing into the back seat of the presidential limousine in a desperate attempt to avoid the gunfire. Only a few originals survive to this day. The set is expected to reach up to £7,000 when it goes on sale in London on 13 November.

Yuka Yamaji, head of photographs at Christie's in London, said their significance could not be under-estimated.

"AP's prints of Abraham Zapruder's footage chillingly captures those fatal moments of one of the most important moments in 20th century history," she said. In the following decade, the grainy pictures became fixed in the world's consciousness, with artists such as Andy Warhol and Richard Hamilton using the images as reference points.

Zapruder's film was bought immediately after the assassination by Life , but was never released in its full form by the magazine. In 1975, Life returned the film to the Zapruder family, five years after his death. The only copies that officially exist were made for the Secret Service and the FBI.

In his lifetime, Zapruder spoke about capturing the assassination on film, saying that initially, he thought the president was "pretending" to be hit when the car emerged.

He also spoke about a recurring nightmare, sparked by his experience, in which the film played out in his head until the fatal head shot snapped him awake: "The thing would come every night — I wake up and see this."