Previously unseen: The Beatles at rest

By Ian Herbert
Tuesday 24 January 2006 01:00

The photojournalist Michael Peto, a dyed-in-the-wool socialist, was more interested in capturing coal mines on film than the Beatles as he established his formidable reputation in Britain in the 1960s.

In fact the many rolls he shot of the band relaxing during breaks in filming Help! in 1965 did not even make it to picture editors' desks. They ended up instead in the back room of a university's archives.

The world can now see what the newspapers missed. Three years after Peto's pictures were unexpectedly discovered by archivists at Dundee University, a selection of the best will go on show in London on Thursday, as part of the launch of a book of Peto's Beatles images, entitled Now These Days Are Gone, published by Genesis Publications.

The exhibition at the Hoopers Gallery in Clerkenwell Close is curated by one of Peto's students and protégés and offers a revealing insight into the Beatles' preparations for the 1965 film, including shots from studio sessions, tea-breaks, press conferences and moments spent relaxing at home. "Everyone was clamouring for a piece of them at the time," said the curator, Colin Jones. "But Michael was fairly indifferent. It was a job, satisfying the curiosity of the middle classes who read the newspaper industry's early glossy magazines, which he worked for."

Peto's Beatles images possess an unusually natural quality at a time when most official photographs of the band reveal a group that were becoming increasingly self-conscious in projecting their image.

Peto produced nearly 200,000 negatives and prints, including 500 photographs of the Beatles, and after his death in 1970 130,000 items were bequeathed to Dundee by his stepson Michael Fodor, who was a student there.

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