Today’s post is about frames. No - not picture frames, photography frames. More specifically, frame numbers one through six taken by Scottish photographer Iain MacMillan’s camera on Friday, August 8th,1969. That is the day that he captured the iconic image of the Beatles for the cover of their Abbey Road LP.
Snap Galleries in London has just opened an exhibition called "Beatles and Bystanders: the unknowns at Abbey Road". For probably the first time ever, all the photos taken of the Beatles during the Abby Road album cover shoot are being displayed side-by-side in a gallery. Thats a total of only six photos folks. Can you imagine only six exposures being taken during a shoot for a CD cover these days? Don’t think so!
Frame number 5 of those six was the chosen shot which we all know and love today.
The exposure not only captured John, Paul, George, and Ringo, it also immortalized a few lucky bystanders in the background that day too.
And yes, there were other people. It’s interesting to think that had another shot been chosen by the band, a different cast of characters would be populating the street and would have been immortalized on one of the best albums of the greatest band ever.
These photos are sought after by many collectors and they might never be displayed in this way again. During the shoot the street was not closed, and there was limited time to get the cover shot. It’s very interesting to read about all the activity that was going on just a short distance from the band and the making of an iconic image. There were delivery trucks coming and going, and various characters milling about in the background (at least a dozen of which show up in the unused frames).
The folks at the gallery have inspected all of the shots closely and have identified all the people and their stories in the cover photo, and almost all the people in the other five shots as well.
The Abbey Road cover has been inspected closely by Beatle fans all over the world primarily for the “Paul is dead” clues that it contains, but it has never been looked at in the context of one shot in a group of six, as it is in this exhibit. The gallery has every page of the small catalogue viewable on-line as well.
Lastly, to me, the contrast of how that photo shoot was done compared to how it would be today is staggering. Today for a band who even attempts to approach the stratosphere of the Beatles, entire streets would be closed down and all the “extras” in the shot would be as carefully choreographed as the band members themselves. Hundreds of shots might be taken and placed on a bands website. Then perhaps the record company would tweet all about it in order to generate excitement and sales.
Not so in 1969. But that’s what so great about the Beatles and their time - little hype was necessary since their raw musical talent, their contagious aura as a band and as individuals, as well as their positive message of love is what shined through then.
And still does today!