Mopping up the Sixties

In 1964, 23-year-old Australian, Robert Whitaker, was already running his own photographic studio when he was invited to take the pictures for a Brian Epstein interview. It was the Beatles' first tour of Australia, and Whitaker seized the opportunity to woo their manager, using a double exposure to produce a portrait of Epstein with peacock feathers around his head. His efforts paid off. Epstein, enchanted by Whitaker's inventiveness, presented him with an offer he couldn't refuse: the chance to come to England, under Epstein's management, and take unlimited photographs of the world's most famous band. But while he was responsible for some of the most imaginative pictures of John, Paul, George and Ringo - like the group shot at EMI's recording studios, used on the back of Revolver - Whitaker used his time in London to take in a much wider view of contemporary life. A new exhibition, "Sixties London: The Photographs of Robert Whitaker 1965-70", reveals a host of material, ranging from out- takes from film sets - Mick Jagger in Performance, Julie Christie in The Go-Between - to scenes in and around Carnaby Street and the Kings Road. Must-sees include Germaine Greer shot close-up in banshee-like make-up, John, Cynthia and Julian Lennon playing at happy families in their Weybridge home in 1965 (left) and Ringo's wife, Maureen, photographed in her hospital bed, dressed in a lacy pink negligee, smoking a fag and inspecting her nails. Lastly, there's the still deliciously shocking cover shot from the US compilation Yesterday and Today of the four grinning Beatles, wearing white overalls and covered in raw meat. The picture was, of course, banned. The squeaky clean mop-tops were then still only dreaming of rebellion. Epstein would never have allowed it.

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London WC2, opens today to 4 Sept