These pictures depict Oswald with the weapons which killed Tippit and Kennedy, along with a pair of leftist newspapers. Oswald claimed the photos were faked, and that his head had been superimposed on the body of someone else. When the photos were printed in Newsweek and Life magazine, people pointed out various irregularities that seemed to corrobate Oswald’s claim. In fact, the inconsistencies were caused by the publications themselves, who touched up the photos to make them more printworthy for a magazine cover. Oswald’s wife Marina swore she took them with Oswald’s camera, but many claim she must be mistaken, pointing out irregularities with shadows and proportions. Recent computer analysis of the photos and Oswald’s camera itself indicate the photos were taken with that camera and not modified thereafter. However, the camera does have the ability to create crude prints of other photos. Could the photos have been modified and then printed through Oswald’s camera? Unlikely, but a stark possibility.
The “Backyard Photos” consist of a set of 3 pictures photographed at Oswald’s home at 214 W. Neely Street in Dallas. The photographs depict Oswald clad in a black polo short and slacks holding a rifle and two Marxist newspapers with a pistol holstered at his side. The photographs were take around March of 1963 by his wife Marina Oswald using his Imperial Reflex camera. The pictures were confiscated by the Dallas police the afternoon after the assassination at the home of Ruth Paine, a friend of the Oswalds who had taken in Marina and her children. One of the photographs was enlarged and shown to Lee Oswald that evening by his interrogators at the police station.
When shown the enlarged photograph, Oswald immediately claimed that the picture had been faked to incriminate him. He stated that he had never seen the photograph and that his head had been superimposed onto someone’s body. Many members of the conspiracy theory have taken this story at face value and the legend of the altered photographs has become a deeply-ingrained part of conspiracy lore.
However, a few key bits of evidence contradict Oswald’s story. A first generation copy of one of the photographs had a note from Oswald to his friend George De Mohrenschildt. Handwriting analysis has confirmed that this note was in fact written by the accused assassin. Recent computer analyses of the photographs confirm that the photograph was taken with Oswald’s camera and have not been altered. Additionally, Oswald’s claims of fakery directly contradict Marina’s account of the photographs.
Marina has consistently insisted to multiple parties that she did in fact take the photographs in the Spring of 1963 and they do in fact depict her late husband Oswald. She testified as much to the Warren Commission, stating that Oswald’s request to be photographed with his weapons made her afraid of her husband’s behavior. Some conspiracy theorists claim that her testimony had been “coached” out of her by the authorities under the fear that she would be deported back to Russia. However, she has confirmed this account with other individuals not connected to the government when she was under no threat of deportation or any other consequences. Marina herself now believes that Oswald was innocent but still stands by her story that she took the photographs and they are of Lee Harvey Oswald. Even with a motive to to change her story, Marina Oswald remains adamant that her initial account was true.
The photographs first became available to the public when one of the pictures appeared on the front page of Life magazine in 1964. Many observers pointed to what appeared to be a line around Oswald’s chin. Conspiracy theorists pointed to this as evidence supporting Oswald’s claim that the photographs were altered to frame him. The photographs were in fact modified by Life magazine itself so that the pictures would be of a more print-worthy quality.
Microscopic analysis of the photographic negatives by the House Select Committee on Assassinations found no evidence of fakery. The negatives were also subjected to more advanced computer analysis which confirmed that the photographs had not been modified. Furthermore, if the photographs were modified by the conspirators, they certainly wouldn’t have left such obvious evidence as a visible line across the chin. The picture of Oswald would have been finely cut with a sharp razor and delicately pasted over the figure holding the weapons. The line on the photograph is clearly a natural artifact. Additionally, where did the conspirators acquire headshots of Oswald? No photographs of Oswald that match his head in the backyard photos have ever surfaced. Other conspiracy theorists have stated that the shadows in the photograph do not match the position of Oswald in the pictures. Recreations of the photographs themselves as well as additional photographic analysis have produced no evidence to support this claim.
Marina’s testimony and scientific analysis have made it clear that the photographs are genuine and do in fact depict a representation of Oswald holding the alleged murder weapons that has not been tampered with.