Robert Whitaker passed away this morning, at the age of 71
Whitaker was running a freelance penthouse photo studio in Flinders Street, Melbourne when he had his fateful meeting with The Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein, during the group's June 1964 Australasian tour. This came about more or less by accident, when Whitaker accompanied a journalist friend to an interview with Epstein for an article for the Melbourne Jewish News. Whitaker's picture was published with the article, which led to his introduction to Epstein and his first shots of the Beatles—pictures of Paul McCartney and George Harrison each holding up boomerangs presented to them by Australian fans.
"I photographed Epstein, saw he was a bit of a peacock and a cavalier, and put peacock feathers around his head in photographic relief. He was knocked out when he saw the picture. After that, he saw an exhibition of collages I had at the Museum of Modern Art and immediately offered me the position of staff photographer at NEMS, photographing all his artists. I initially turned it down, but after seeing The Beatles perform at Festival Hall I was overwhelmed by all the screaming fans and I decided to accept the offer to return to England ".
Whitaker's most celebrated work is the 1966 photo which was appropriated for The Beatles' infamous Yesterday and Today album cover, which was briefly released in the U.S. in 1966 but hastily withdrawn.
When I visited Liverpool in June for Ringo Starr's homecoming concert, I grabbed Whitaker's book "Eight Days A Week", which featured photos he took during the fabs' tour of the Far east in 1966.