- TWENTY-FIVE years ago today,
John Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment building on the Upper
West Side of Manhattan. This previously unpublished photograph was taken
a little more than a month before his death.
- Back in the 70's and 80's, I took many pictures of people
in the arts, and I had been asked by The Times to photograph Lennon and
Yoko Ono for a story about their new album, "Double Fantasy."
- The session was to take place in my studio on East 74th
Street on Sunday, Nov. 2, at 8 p.m. The couple, who had not been in a photography
studio for five years, had insisted that I be alone - with no assistant,
or anyone else, in my studio during the session. I put up a gray seamless
backdrop because I had no idea what they would be wearing.
- The two arrived about 15 minutes late, rang my buzzer
and walked up to my second-floor studio. They were wearing sweaters, and
they were by themselves.
- In an effort to gauge how much time I was going to have,
I asked John if this was a stop en route to dinner. He replied, laughing:
"Dinner? I've not had breakfast yet!"
- When we started the shoot, John and Yoko both kept their
glasses on - she was wearing dark sunglasses and he had on tinted lenses.
After four long-shot takes, I asked that the glasses be removed. I explained
that I wanted to take some tight close-ups and needed to show their eyes.
- They agreed - and from that point on the photographing
went easily. They were both relaxed and agreeable to the poses I suggested.
John was especially spontaneous and loose. He seemed to be having fun and
laughed a lot.
- During breaks John looked at the pictures hanging on
the studio walls, admiring especially some portraits I'd done recently
of Meryl Streep. He said he was a Meryl Streep groupie. He also liked,
and petted, my ginger studio cat, Red.
- It was apparent that John and Yoko were enjoying being
photographed and were in no hurry to leave. But at 10:45 p.m., with eight
rolls of black-and-white film and a half roll of color film shot, I suggested
we had more than enough pictures and should stop.
- I was scheduled to process the black-and-white rolls
by midnight so a photo editor from the Times could pick up the contact
sheets. But I was well over an hour late - largely because the couple stayed
a while after the shoot.
- John mentioned how comfortable he was in my simple, home-like
studio and asked if he and Yoko could come back after the first of the
year to do a personal sitting. (I said yes.) Then they took the time to
draw a self-caricature. John drew himself first, then Yoko drew her face
adjacent to his. They both signed it. We never discussed music.
- After a photograph from the shoot was published in The
Times on Nov. 9, Yoko telephoned to ask if she and John could use the picture
on their 1980 Christmas card. I gladly gave permission. Given what happened
on Dec. 8, I'm not sure if the card was ever produced.
- Over the years, many Lennon fans have asked why I didn't
take any solo pictures of John. My reply has always been this: First, my
assignment was to photograph John and Yoko together. And second, they were
just so together that it simply never occurred to me.