Liverpool Conservation Centre Shows Rare Beatles Photos

By Aline Tanner | 15 August 2007
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black and white photo of some men with 1960s haircuts at a restaurant table

The Beatles at a hotel in Wiltshire during a break in filming. © University of Dundee

An exhibition of Beatles photographs seldom viewed and never seen before in Liverpool, will go on display at the city’s National Conservation Centre from August 18 2007 until March 2 2008. The exhibition coincides perfectly with International Beatles Week, which runs from August 22-28.

Now These Days Are Gone features photographs by Michael Peto, a renowned photojournalist of the 1960s. Each picture was taken during the filming of the Beatles film Help in 1965.

As well as capturing the mop-haired foursome in a variety of intimate surroundings: at home, in the studio, on set, the striking monochrome portraits offer the viewer a fascinating insight into how they used to relax between takes and fool around together on set.

black and white photo of a man at a microphone looking at a sheet of paper he is holding

John Lennon in the studio in late 1965. © University of Dundee

There’s a great sense of nostalgia attached to this body of work, as you’d imagine from the title and subject. Each photograph possesses iconic status, heightened by the fact that they immortalise a time when the ‘fab four’ was in its entirety.

“We are delighted at having this opportunity to bring some rarely seen images of the Beatles to Liverpool,” said Fiona Philpott, Director of Exhibitions at National Museums Liverpool.

“For fans of the Beatles there is the chance to see the stars in a relaxed and informal setting while those interested in photography can admire the work of Michael Peto.”

black and white photo of four men in a field wearing soldier helmets

The group on the set of Help! in May 1965 dressed up in military gear to promote the film. © University of Dundee

Born in Bata, Hungary, in 1908, Peto lived in London during the Second World War where he worked for the Ministry of Labour and tirelessly backed the war effort. Having taken up photography as a career in 1949, he joined The Observer. His subsequent post-war reportage work reflects his travels throughout Europe, India and the Middle and Far East.

Peto’s primary interest however, lay in the study of the human form within natural settings, and there is no doubt that he was one of the supreme masters of this aspect of photographic art. He was also heavily inspired by the arts during the 1950s and 1960s, in particular by the London Ballet scene and arrival of dance aficionado Rudolf Nureyev.

black and white photo of four men posing for a press photo shoot

At Twickenham Studios, where The Beatles went to see the first rough cuts of Help! They also held a press conference as they had just received news of their MBE. © University of Dundee

Well known for his photographs of famous figures from the worlds of politics, art and entertainment, Michael Peto held many major exhibitions of his work before he died at the age of 62 in 1970. He left no less than 130,000 of his photographs to the University of Dundee.

His vast and impressive body of work was then archived and lay forgotten until it was rediscovered in 2004. The University of Dundee is now full custodian and copyright owner of the entire photographic work of Peto - 130,000 prints and negatives.

This is a real gem of an exhibition, not to be missed - Beatles fan or not. Plus the fact that these photographs have hardly been exhibited, let alone seen, makes them seem all the more special and poignant.

The intimacy and naturalness portrayed in the images is testament to Peto’s keen ability as a photographer to capture stars at their most relaxed and candid. He clearly had the knack of making those around him feel so comfortable in his presence that he could just get on with what he did best – taking wonderful pictures.

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