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Iain Macmillan2018-10-16T11:53:22+00:00

Project Description

The Abbey Road sessions

8 August, 1969. A Friday. The date of one of the most famous photo-shoots in rock ‘n’ roll history. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr walk over the zebra crossing next to Abbey Road studios. There and back. Three times. Six clicks of the shutter. Just six photographs, and the shoot was over. Three frames showing the Beatles crossing from left to right, and three walking from right to left. The same order in each of the six frames – John Lennon first in white, then Ringo Starr in black, Paul McCartney in grey, barefoot, holding a cigarette in his right hand (all three in Tommy Nutter suits) and at the back, a denim clad George Harrison.

The fifth frame of six, showing a left to right traverse, was chosen as the actual cover. Abbey Road (the first British Beatles LP without the name of the band or the title of the album on the front) was released in the UK on 26 September 1969 and debuted at number 1. Rolling Stone magazine voted it number 14 of the top 500 albums of all time.

Frame 1

Beatles left to right, Paul in sandals.

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Frame 2

Beatles right to left, Paul in sandals.

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The photographer – Iain Macmillan

The man behind the camera that hot August day was Scottish photographer Iain Macmillan (20 October 1938 to 8 May 2006). He had worked with Yoko Ono in 1966 – he included a photograph of her in The Book of London, a collection of his photographs published that year. She then commissioned Iain to document her exhibition at London’s Indica gallery, and as a result, Iain was introduced to John Lennon – establishing the Beatles connection. Subsequently, John Lennon invited Iain to photograph the Abbey Road cover. Paul McCartney had already developed the initial concept of the shoot, and in a meeting with Iain, they discussed Paul’s early sketches.

On the appointed Friday, Iain only had a short time to nail it. He reportedly spent less than 15 minutes up a ladder, and they had to give way to traffic. Because of time constraints, the shoot had been very carefully planned. Iain knew exactly what he was trying to achieve. His hand drawn sketch of the intended result shows the Beatles in step, the vanishing point in the centre of the image, the viewer’s eyes drawn in by the converging lines of pavements and trees.

Frame 3

Beatles left to right, with bus, van and taxi.

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Frame 4

Beatles right to left, with bus.

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Rare photographs for sale

During his lifetime, Iain Macmillan produced and signed a number of colour prints of each of the Abbey Road session alternates, made to the highest archival standards from the original transparencies. Iain passed away on 8 May 2006 and signed examples of his work, made during his lifetime, are finite and very scarce. As such they are highly prized amongst Beatles collectors. Individual examples of each of the photographs come on the secondary market from time to time, and, occasionally the holy grail – a complete suite of front cover variants and the back cover photograph becomes available. The prices of these iconic images reflect their importance in the photographic history of The Beatles.

Frame 5

The actual cover

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Back cover

The girl in the blue dress

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Frame 6

Beatles right to left, Paul barefoot.

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