Photographer Robert Whitaker, who shot some of the most famous â€” and infamous â€” images of the Beatles, has died. He was 71. Whitaker died of cancer Sept. 20 in East Sussex, according to a friend, photo archivist Dave Brolan.
Born in Harpenden, in 1939, Whitaker immigrated to Australia in his early 20s and was working as a photographer in Melbourne when the Beatles visited the country in 1964 and was assigned to photograph manager Brian Epstein for the Jewish News; Epstein was so impressed with the resulting image of himself adorned with peacock feathers that he offered Whitaker a job as staff photographer for his company, NEMS.
The job involved photographing â€œMerseybeatâ€ acts including Cilla Black and Gerry & the Pacemakers, as well as capturing the Beatles â€” onstage, backstage, in planes and hotel rooms and all manner of locations â€” over more than two years. He covered the bandâ€™s final world tour in 1966 and took the pictures used on the collage-style cover of the â€œRevolverâ€ album.
After parting company with the Beatles, Whitaker photographed Mick Jagger on the sets of the films â€œPerformance â€ and â€œNed Kelly,â€ helped create the psychedelic cover for Creamâ€™s â€œDisraeli Gearsâ€ album and worked on the influential underground magazine Oz from his studio within The Pheasantry on the Kings Road where the magazine was produced.
Increasingly wary of being pigeonholed as a â€œpopâ€ photographer, Whitaker moved into news, covering the Vietnam War and other conflicts for publications including Time and Life. He also spent time photographing his hero, Salvador Dali.
In the 1970s he moved back to East Sussex , where he farmed and raised cattle, before returning to a small studio just off the Kings Road in the early nineties where his Beatles work began to be rediscovered by collecters such as Oasis.
I first met Robert in the early nineties when I was art directing Tatler magazine and needed a portrait of the founder of the Hard Rock Cafe, Robert Earl. He came with the original print straight from feeding the cattle. We remained in contact from that point on and worked together on a monograph of his work which sadly never found a publisher.
I will miss him.
Editor Hungry EyeÂ