Saturday 24 September 2011

Robert Whitaker 1939-2011

by Ernie Sutton

BBFC Chairman and Magazine Editor, Pete Nash, with Bob
                    at an exhbition of Bob's photographs
Norwich, September 2009

The BBFC were very sad to learn of the passing of Robert Whitaker this week.

To Beatle fans the name needs no introduction- a photographer who took some of the finest photographs of The Beatles between 1964 and 1966.

Bob was born in 1939 and began his photographic career in the late 1950s, before moving to Australia in 1961. Bob’s father and grandfather were both Australian, and his time in Australia is said to have laid the foundations for his future career.

Bob was working as a freelance when in June 1964 he had a chance meeting with Brian Epstein and subsequently The Beatles during their Australian tour in 1964.

One of his first pictures of The Beatles he took was of Paul McCartney and George Harrison holding boomerangs.

From there Bob came to England in August 1964 and began to take photos of artists managed by Epstein including Billy J Kramer, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Cilla Black.

Bob famously photographed the “Beatles for Sale” album sleeve, and went on to photograph the cover for Gerry’s album “Ferry Cross the Mersey”, as well as a number of other albums of the period.

He accompanied The Beatles on the US tour of 1965 and their final world tour in 1966, but his most famous shot is probably the infamous “Butcher” cover for the “Yesterday and Today” album which was taken in Bob’s Chelsea studio.

The sleeve was banned in the US and is now a huge collector’s item. However, the eventual photograph for the sleeve was one of Bob’s also.

The tour of 1966 was recently depicted in his book “Eight Days a Week” published in 2008. Some of Bob’s other photographs have been published in books previously including “The Unseen Beatles”.

Apart from the Mersey artists, Bob also worked with many other artists including the Australian group, The Seekers.

In 1967 he produced one of the best album covers ever, in my opinion, that of the classic Cream album “Disraeli Gears”.

With The Beatles having finished touring, Bob gradually moved into photography in the art world, one of his famous subjects being Salvador Dali.

He went on to work for Oz magazine, Time and Life.

It was a privilege to meet Bob at his book signing in Liverpool in 2008, shortly after the release of his book “Eight Days a Week”, and his photographs, not just of The Beatles, will live on and are a fitting tribute to one of our finest ever photographers.

Marcus Hearn & Robert Whitaker at Beatle Week, 25th August 2008
Photo by Sharon Ankin

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