The Beatles and Richard Avedon: Two Outtakes

Michael Gerber
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Ran across these last night, and thought I’d share. I think Avedon’s portraits of The Beatles are my favorite (with David Bailey’s a close second).

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  1. Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

    “There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
    There is indeed no art form, there are no archival documents, not even photography that can fully capture a subject
    Avedon and The Beatles remind me of two issues:
    1) As early as 1963 The Beatles and Epstein had something going with photographers… In the conversation in Michael Braun’s ‘Love Me Do!’ Paul and the boys explain how they don’t care about photographers except for those who are capable and have the ability to produce something significant… they are willing to do their best for a good photographer…

    “We work much harder with someone like Robert Freeman or Parkinson that with the nationals who only want a cheesy grin….
    Listen, do you think this boy Avedon will do things for us? Because we’ll hire him”

    (It is hard to imagine John obliging, in the film Imagine you can see how Lennon takes nothing serious even when he visits Bailey with Yoko…)

    2) The other thing is ‘the truth’… The Beatles and their fans and their need for the truth…
    “There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
    There is indeed no art form, there are no archival documents, not even photography that can fully capture a subject. Why are Beatles’ fans always checking sources and trying to discover the truth, about John and Paul how they did not cooperate… is it the need for truth, or the need to… I just don’t know.
    I want to be touched, surprised… and photography does that for me…
    It is going to be hot out here today… I think I will visit a studio or gallery with photography… thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Avatar Justin McCann wrote:

    Yet another reminder that, for all their talent, the band wouldn’t have had a tenth of the impact if they weren’t so beautiful.
    Anyone know why basically every ’60s and ’70s rock star, the occasional Brian Wilson aside, was not just slim but rail thin? I get that they were all on a lot of drugs, but they weren’t exactly health freaks and I assume the usual post-show meal was a bag of chips and lots of alcohol?

    • Michael Bleicher Michael Bleicher wrote:

      Smoking, skipping meals due to work and drugs, much smaller portions? Don’t underestimate amphetamines: they were slimming pills for a reason.

      It does seem to be a British thing: Crosby and Stills, for example, weren’t overweight, but they weren’t rail thin like the Brits were. And some British musicians did develop a paunch: John Lennon (famously, in 1965), John Entwistle, Brian Jones, Keith Moon.

    • SMOKING.

      All those people smoked like chimneys. Smoking keeps you thin (until, like George, it kills you).

      The Beatles’ handsomeness and charm is a huge factor in the scale of their fame. If Paul McCartney had looked like Eric Burdon — or if they’d be sullen and sour like The Stones — their role in pop history would’ve been different. Best case, they would’ve been The Kinks.

      This is what I’m always banging on about: The Stones only work if they come after The Beatles. Their “rebellion” only works as an alternative to The Beatles’ smoothness and perfection. The Stones without The Beatles are the freakin’ Yardbirds.

      Da Ignant Yoofs occasionally dismiss The Beatles as a “boy band,” because they were so perfect. But their perfection was random chance, right down to Ringo’s “homely but cute” looks. You can’t really understand what a stroke of luck they were until you acknowledge that. They weren’t coached; they didn’t have plastic surgery; they wrote all their own songs and music; they were so naturally appealing that all Brian had to do was make them wear suits and in 18 months they took over the world and opened the door to tons of musicians, all interesting, but none as perfectly suited to the aesthetics of their time and place.

  3. Avatar Tasmin wrote:

    I had seen this picture of Paul before, but not George. George is quite thin here. I wonder if he was a vegetarian already. I think he was the first one to go veggie. Paul didn’t go vegetarian until he married Linda.

    This is my all time favorite David Bailey picture:

    • George was apparently the first of the group to go vegetarian (in 1965).

      Everybody, if you get an error on @Tasmin’s link, just hit “try again.” Then it works.

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