In 1960, Eppridge refined his art and his eye at the University of Missouri, where he received his bachelor’s degree in journalism. While at the School of Journalism, Eppridge won a picture competition and first prize brought him to a week-long internship with LIFE magazine. After his graduation from college, Eppridge worked for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and then went on to work for LIFE. During the 1960’s and until the magazine folded in 1972 Eppridge was a staff photographer for LIFE. He covered many topics and news events, often finding himself in history-making situations.
While at the magazine, Eppridge covered the Vietnam War in the field, and the affects of the war at home, as well as the presidential campaign with Robert F. Kennedy. Also while at LIFE, Eppridge photographed environmental and outdoor stories, and his photo essay on heroin addicts in Times Square was the inspiration for a 1971 film titled The Panic in Needle Park. Eppridge covered Mia Farrow on the set of Rosemary’s Baby; Clint Eastwood during the filming of Dirty Harry; The arrival of The Beatles to North America in 1964; Barbara Streisand when she was first on the verge of stardom (1964) and then 2 years later when she was world famous.
While working for LIFE, Eppridge photographed celebrities such as Alan Alda on the set of M*A*S*H, Gene Hackman, Raquel Welch and others. During the Apollo 13 mission, Epperidge was the only photographer allowed into Marilyn Lovell’s home even as her husband was stranded in orbit above the moon. In 1968 while five feet in front of his subject and friend, Robert F. Kennedy lay on the floor of the kitchen of Los Angeles’s Ambassador Hotel, mortally wounded by a bullet fired by Sirhan B. Sirhan. Eppridge went into the crowd and began holding people back, but every once in a while, he would reach down and click his camera. After Senator Kennedy’s assassination, Eppridge tried to get back to political coverage. ‘I did a little thing with Hubert Humphrey, but I found myself looking over my shoulder, and I freaked out every time somebody dropped something on the floor. There were guys on Bobby’s campaign who were on Jack’s, and they were that way, and I thought they were crazy. Then suddenly I got that way. I thought, probably better to have somebody else on the campaign.’ Later, Eppridge faced the unnerving experience of photographing Kennedy’s son Robert Jr. and daughter Kerry. ‘It just sent shivers up and down my back. The weird thing was how much he looks like his father, and Kerry even sounds like her father.’
Still later still, Eppridge worked on environmental and outdoor stories for LIFE magazine until it ceased publication as a weekly in 1972. He then signed a corporate contract with Time Inc. ‘I tried all the magazines to see if I liked working for TIME or FORTUNE. I was there for the start of PEOPLE.’ Eventually in 1977, he hooked up with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
In 1993, his book Robert Kennedy, the Last Campaign was published on the 25th anniversary of Kennedy’s death. The book gives full exposure to some of the photographs that Eppridge captured on that day in 1968.
Eppridge has been a lecturer and instructor at several photography workshops, including Rich Clarkson’s Photography at the Summit and the Eddie Adams Workshop. Most recently, The Beatles! Backstage and Behind the Scenes, a photography exhibition of Bill’s images of the band has been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. as well as at The Museum of Television and Radio in New York.
All images © Bill Eppridge