Bill Eppridge (1938-2013( was adept at celebrities, fresh- and saltwater fishing, the Arctic and many other subjects. He was nearly killed in the Dominican Republic in 1965 after Lyndon Johnson sent Army troops to protect American interests. And for an intensely dramatic LIFE series on young heroin addicts, which served as the basis for the film Panic in Needle Park, Eppridge and a writer brought to light a world that few people could have imagined. But despite all this, it is one picture he will likely be remembered for.
In 1968, Eppridge was in the Los Angeles hotel where Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by Sirhan Sirhan. Everyone’s attention was on the assailant “There in front of me was the Senator on the floor being held by the busboy. There was nobody else around, and I made my first frame, and I forgot to focus the camera. The second frame was a little more in focus … then just for a second, while everything was open, the busboy looked up, and he had this look in his eye. I made that picture, and then suddenly the whole situation closed in again. And it became bedlam.”
For this story, Eppridge spent two months living with a pair of heroin addicts. In order to persuade the couple to let him and a writer completely invade their world, he told them it was their chance to make a contribution to society. The couple thought it over and finally replied, “O.K. This gives us a chance to do something good.” Eppridge became so ingrained in the sordid, desperate life of the heroin addict that, at one point, narcotics detectives, convinced that he had stolen his cameras and LIFE credentials, were about to haul him off to jail. The article’s writer came by and finally straightened things out.
—Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers