The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - ARTS SCENE -


Snow and frigid tem­per­a­tures didn’t stop thou­sands of scream­ing teenagers from crowd­ing into the Wash­ing­ton Coliseum in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal for The Bea­tles first live con­cert on Amer­i­can soil. And not hav­ing a flash didn’t stop pho­tog­ra­pher Mike Mitchell, then just 18 years old, from us­ing his un­re­stricted ac­cess to doc­u­ment that his­toric Fe­bru­ary night in 1964 us­ing only the dim light in the arena. Ghostly shad­ows and streams of light filled some neg­a­tives. With the help of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy and close to 1000 hours in front of the com­puter screen, Mitchell was able to peel back decades of grunge and trans­form those old neg­a­tives into a rare, art­ful look at one of pop cul­ture’s defin­ing mo­ments. Mitchell’s por­traits of The Bea­tles are the cen­tre­piece of an ex­hi­bi­tion at the David An­thony Fine Art gallery in Taos, New Mex­ico un­til Au­gust 30 – the first time the prints have been ex­hib­ited since be­ing un­veiled in 2011 at a Christie’s auc­tion in New York City. “Just amaz­ing,” gallery owner David Mapes said as he looked around the room at the large black and white prints and won­dered aloud what it must have been like to be in Mitchell’s shoes that night. It didn’t take long from the time The Bea­tles re­leased their de­but al­bum in 1963 to go from a lit­tle Bri­tish bar band to an in­ter­na­tional sen­sa­tion. The Bea­tles’ reach even­tu­ally stretched be­yond mu­sic and hair­cuts to re­li­gion and pol­i­tics. “The Bea­tles came to rep­re­sent some of the yearn­ings for peace and hope and equal­ity and a larger so­cial jus­tice. In the United States and through­out the world, their per­son­al­i­ties be­came as im­por­tant as the mu­sic,” said Nor­man Markowitz, a his­tory pro­fes­sor at Rut­gers Univer­sity. Mitchell can’t pre­dict what role his pho­to­graphs will play as his­to­ri­ans and mu­sic fans con­tinue to ex­am­ine the evo­lu­tion of Amer­i­can pop cul­ture. Still, those mo­ments cap­tured by his cam­era that Fe­bru­ary night tell a grainy story of four young men who seemed to be hav­ing the time of their lives. Mitchell re­mem­bers how hot it was in­side the coliseum. The crowd was deaf­en­ing but the res­onat­ing bass beats were un­mis­tak­able. He said The Bea­tles were “on fire” that night. “They were re­ally juiced. It was ob­vi­ous at the time that they were re­ally, re­ally, re­ally into it and I think the pic­tures re­ally ben­e­fit from that,” he said. With no flash, he was forced to wait for the per­fect time to snap that shut­ter. His pho­to­graphs im­mor­talised the im­por­tant de­tails of the mo­ment in a bath of light while the rest faded into dark­ness. It was the con­cert that marked the be­gin­ning of his fas­ci­na­tion with light. “I think that was the first time in my life that I had to re­ally look more deeply at light and take my queues from what the light was do­ing,” he said. “I learned to sort of feel from the light.”

Paul McCart­ney and John Len­non on Fe­bru­ary 11, 1964, dur­ing The Bea­tles’ first live US con­cert at the Wash­ing­ton Coliseum

Ringo Starr dur­ing the same con­cert

The Fab Four dur­ing a news con­fer­ence be­fore their first live US con­cert

Mike Mitchell’s pho­to­graph of John Len­non in con­cert is part of a col­lec­tion be­ing shown at David An­thony Fine Art in Taos, New Mex­ico, un­til Au­gust 30

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