Taos exhibit shines light on rare Beatles photos

2013-08-05T00:00:00Z Taos exhibit shines light on rare Beatles photosThe Associated Press The Associated Press
August 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

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 1,000 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 centerpiece of a monthlong exhibition at the David Anthony Fine Art gallery in Taos — the first time the prints have been exhibited since being unveiled in 2011 at a Christie's auction in New York City. The gallery started hanging the first of the framed prints a week ago in preparation for Friday's opening.

"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.

Mapes pointed to a photograph of the four band members, their backs to the camera with a thin ribbon of light outlining their silhouettes. When he first saw it, he said he teared up. He knew he had to find a way to share it with others.

"It brought back memories of that time. I was a teenager and it was so much about love and everything was optimistic feeling," he said.

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.

For Paul Vance, who teaches a class on the Beatles at Winona State University in Minnesota, the band was the reason he pursued music. He was 11 years old when the Beatles first came to the U.S.

The Beatles had good timing, he said, having arrived at a time when America was still heartbroken over the assassination of then-President John F. Kennedy and young people were looking for meaning in their lives.

"Much has been said and written about it," Vance said of the Beatles' influence. "It's a very significant point that the world after the Beatles was a radically different place than the world before the Beatles, and they did influence and change so many aspects of not just American life, but life everywhere."

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