London, 1966 - and I was a teenager with a camera, newly arrived in London as the Swinging Sixties were exploding. Employed as a messenger, I became intimately familiar with the labyrinth of alleys and cut throughs that composed Soho and the West End. This is where the action was focused. Clubs, bars, models, shoe makers, hustlers, Italian coffee shops, emerging bands and their managers. London was characterized by a psychedelic diversity of activities, low rents, infinite possibilities and a cultural landscape which resonates half a century later. And for a teenager with a Nikon, a reasonable eye and pocketful of Tri-X, the obvious thing to do was photograph it. Not with any particular objective. Objectives weren't high on the agenda in the swinging sixties. Just doing it would do. A picture did not have to be sold... it just had to be taken. Thus, images of after hours drinking clubs in Soho, run down housing projects and eccentric people in the street stand alongside pictures of Jean Luc Godard, Jim Morrison, Barbra Streisand and John Lennon. London was an open canvas and anyone could paint or play or record on it. "No" was not a word in the general vernacular. These pictures are not classic music pictures, nor is there much performance material. They are singular moments from an emblematic decade caught by an accidental photographer. The pictures are principally portraits, or "close work". The Revolution Night Club is faces and cigarettes. Barbra Streisand in the Dorchester Hotel is just Barbra Streisand in a chair. Jimi Hendrix rehearsing in the Royal Albert Hall is Jimi Hendrix, hands and fretboard. These pictures are principally in black and white - an economic necessity in those days rather than a stylistic decision. "Shoot six or ten frames and leave" was the maxim. Then head for the darkroom. Fifty years later, what do I feel about the pictures? The pictures were really just given to you by the subject. You put a frame around what or who was in front of you. You just had to know where that frame should be.
It was a different world, virtually no security, everyone was friendly and compliant. I developed an interesting, eclectic portfolio of pictures – the famous and the anonymous – which evolved into a small but comprehensive view of late sixties London.
A short clip from photographer Andrew Maclear talks about how he managed to shot so many
memorable images of celebrities in Swinging
London back in 60s.
Jimi Hendrix was rehearsing at the Royal Albert Hall, London, February 1969. I went along to the rehearsal and I think there were just a few photographers there. Either I stood on a chair or was on the front of the stage as the camera is very square onto his body. As usual, I only did a few images, some Ektachrome and the rest in black and white. And, as usual, the pictures are very close as I only had my 50mm or 85mm. I don´t think anything at all was said and he was obviously absorbed in his guitar and rehearsal. And anyway, a young upstart photographer doesn´t tell Jimi Hendrix what to do.
John & Yoko
After meeting Yoko Ono. John Lennon was doing a lot of things without the Beatles and a few of these events I went along to. The balloon event was amusing … just a few photographers and a small crowd of people. A summer evening in 1968. John and Yoko were also at the Rock and Roll Circus – I remember the huge white Rolls Royce parked out front of the studio. But the picture I am most fond of is when they are leaving court surrounded by police. It encapsulates the perpetual attention he lived with for so many years and never really complained about. Yet, John seemed to like the whole picture taking process. ´Send them along to the office - number 3, Saville Row,´ he used to say to me.
The pictures of Mick Jagger are taken either on the set of ´Performance´, a 1968 movie with Anita Pallenberg, or whilst the band were recording The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. Mick was always very agreeable with photographers, or at least he was with me, and the Performance pictures are very intimate and very close. Largely because the film was shot in a house, not on a set, so space was limited. I was allowed a few minutes after each take to get the pictures. Between set ups, Mick and his co-stars would sometimes hang out in front of the house, smoking, and we did some pictures there in one of my rare moments of colour activity.