Henry Grossman

Oct 11, 1936
Nov 27, 2022

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From Wikipedia:

Henry Grossman (October 11, 1936 – November 27, 2022) was an American photographer, best known for his portraits of notable figures, in particular President John F. Kennedy and The Beatles, as well as prominent political figures, writers, and performing artists. Through much of his career he was a staff photographer for Life magazine. His photographs feature portraits that include Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Luciano Pavarotti, and Barbra Streisand. […]

In February 1964, he photographed the Beatles’ American television debut performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Subsequently, he became friends with the Beatles and spent extensive time photographing them between 1964 and 1968. […]

Between 1964 and 1968, Henry Grossman took more than 7,000 photographs of the Beatles, most of which were not published at the time. In 2008, Kevin Ryan, Brian Kehew, and Henry Grossman published Kaleidoscope Eyes, which documents a recording session for the song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds“. In 2012, Ryan, Kehew and Grossman then published Places I Remember, revealing more than 1000 previously unpublished photographs.

The photographs are notable for their unusual angles and candid documentation of life and events. Henry was a trusted photographer and friend, who participated in both their public and private lives. In 1967, Henry photographed the band with their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Bangor, Wales, when they learned that their manager Brian Epstein had been found dead of a drug overdose. His best-known photograph of the Beatles is a formal portrait shot for the cover of Life magazine in 1967 and also released as a poster, depicting the band with mustaches and flowery clothes.

From The Forward, March 6, 2013:

Curt Schleier: You first met the Beatles when you were assigned to photograph their initial appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Were you familiar with the group at the time?

Henry Grossman: No. I only knew that they were famous. I wasn’t listening to their music at all. I’m a classical music lover. Opera and some Broadway were my forte. I didn’t care for rock music. I heard them on the show, and I enjoyed the music. I didn’t quite understand it. I loved the fact that people were screaming and taking up photogenic postures.

You received additional assignments to photograph them, in the Bahamas and in Austria, where they were filming “Help.” Somehow, over that period your relationship with them seemed to go from professional to personal. How did that happen?

It was probably a matter of personality. I love people. I’m curious. I liked them a lot. I was learning from them. I was having fun with them. When we were in Austria, George said, “When we get back to London, can you take pictures of [my wife], Pattie [Boyd,] and me?” Later we visited John. I wasn’t seizing the moment to pose them in funny ways; I was just around them. I was like a fly on the wall. I was there at a lot of important moments. I was with them the day [their manager], Brian Epstein, died. […]

The Beatles did explore religion, though, particularly Indian religions. Think of their relationship with the Maharishi, who became their spiritual adviser.

An interesting thing. I was in London once and went to George’s house, and there was this unusual instrument on the wall. I asked him what it was, and he took it down and said, “It’s a sitar. But I can’t find anyone in London who can teach me how to play it.” I told him, “You can afford to bring the best sitar player in the world to London to teach you.” Next time I see him, he greets me at the door barefoot and he looks at me and says, “Look what you started.” He’d gone to India to study [sitar] with Ravi Shankar, and that’s when he became interested in Indian culture. […]

From The Forward, March 6, 2013

From thedailybeast.com, March 27, 2013:

What was it that made you connect with them so well?

Well, I liked them! I found them witty, charming, fun, intelligent. They were bright guys—and they were only about four years younger than me. Most of the other photographers were much older than me, so I think that was part of it. But also, as a Life magazine photographer, we were taught to watch. We didn’t set up a lot of pictures, I simply captured their lives. I didn’t want things from them. As a result, it was a lot of fun.

But were you a Beatles fan at the time?

Well, I did not particularly care for Rock music, at all. I loved opera. I didn’t listen to their stuff. Some songs, like “Yesterday,” I loved. But I wasn’t a fan of their music, I was a fan of them. I never had the adoration, the awe that their fans had. I recognized the greatness I was around, definitely, but they were my friends. That made it different.

Is it true that they tried to stop you from running the first intimate photos you took of them?

Well, Brian Epstein [their manager] called me when Life magazine said they were going to syndicate some of the pictures I had taken of them in their home, and he said, “Henry, please don’t do that.” The next day, I got a cable from him that said: “Please disregard phone call. I’ve just seen the pictures. Can I have a set?” So that was good news.

When you imagine a moment with them now, what comes to mind?

I was always singing along the beach in Nassau with them, Oh, what a beautiful morning—simply because I loved that song! They caught on to that quite quickly and began singing it to me whenever I would show up to meet them. Even years later, I had a cable from George, and he started it with “Oh, what a beautiful morning!”

That’s hilarious. It seems like you were really able to see their goofy sides.

Absolutely. When I was shooting the cover for Life magazine, I said to Ringo, “I wish I had the guts to wear a tie like that.” And he came over and fingered my paisley tie, a very quiet tie I’d bought in London, and he said, “Well, Henry, if you did, you’d still be Henry, but with just a bright tie.” I thought that was just marvelous. I loved it.

It’s clear that they really let you into their lives. Can you describe what that was like?

Well, to give an example, one day in Wales, I passed through the group of photographers waiting outside where they were staying and knocked on the door. John peeked out the curtain window, saw me, and immediately opened it and pulled me inside. The other photographers who were waiting in the courtyard were fuming and making a racket about it, saying, “Why does he get to go inside!?” When John heard them, he leaned back out to explain it: “He’s a friend of ours. He’s traveled around the world with us. If you’d traveled around the world with us, you might be inside too.” I thought that was funny.

Of the four guys, who were you closest with?

I became closer friends with George. When I would end up in London, I would call the office and leave a message for him that I was in town and he’d get back to me. We’d arrange to meet the next day or whenever. One time when I went over to George’s house, he had an instrument hanging on the wall that I didn’t recognize—it was a sitar. He took it down and told me, “I can’t get anyone to teach me how to play it.” I told him that he had enough money to find the best sitar teacher in India and ask him to come stay for the summer to teach him how to play. He took my advice but went further—and headed all the way to India!

What about Paul?

I remember one day I was standing with Paul by the water in Nassau, and I looked down and saw what appeared to be a fossil. It was a piece of coral, I think. I picked it up and handed it to Paul and said, “Look at this, you know how many millions of years it took for this to end up this way?” And he picked it up, looked me in the eye, grinned, and tossed it as far out into the ocean as he could. Then he turned to me laughing and said, “Wow, I guess we set that one back a few million years, didn’t we, Henry?”

It seems like you captured so many light moments like that. In all the time you spent with them, did you ever see them upset?

I never saw any dark days. Maybe that’s just me. I see the best things in people, and I try to capture that. But I can honestly say, I never saw a nasty or biting look from any of them. They were charming. The only time that I really saw them down was the day Brian Epstein died. I left with Jane Asher and Paul for the car ride back to London after they got the news, and the press was surrounding him trying to ask “How do you feel?” and “What’s next?” Those were definitely some down times. But I was there as a friend, not an interviewer or photographer. […]

From thedailybeast.com, March 27, 2013

I went to Wales to photograph the boys, the Beatles with the Maharishi. That’s what I expected to do but incidentally I got pictures of them having dinner in the kitchen in a house in Wales, all seated around the table, John pouring tea and stuff like this. I never expected to get that. Who ever saw that before?

Henry Grossman – From Hello the Mushroom, November 19, 2012

The Daily Mail called me and said, ‘can you go to Nassau for a couple days? Our editor is going to interview The Beatles.’ They were the big thing. I spent a couple days down there. And then I brought the stuff back to New York, had it developed, showed it to Life Magazine before I sent it to London, and Life Magazine said ‘go back!’ So I went back! I went to Nassau, and then I went to Austria with them.

Henry Grossman – From PHAWKER.COM, July 27, 2017

Photo by Henry Grossman – From Recording Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – The Beatles History (beatles-chronology.ru)
The Beatles and photographer Harry Grossman – From PHAWKER.COM, July 27, 2017
From Gissela — Paul after an interview with Time Magazine, in… (tumblr.com) – Paul after an interview with Time Magazine, in 1967 (Photo by Henry Grossman).

Recording sessions Henry Grossman participated in

Recording "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"

Feb 28, 1967 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK Mono)


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