Collection: Robert Whitaker
Robert Whitaker, born in Britain in 1939, passed away in 2011. Robert described himself as “one part Aussie lad” since his father and his grandfather were both Australian. Although he has worked mostly in Britain, Australia and Australian connections have been a major influence on his work and career. Robert began work in London as a photographer in the late ‘Fifties but he moved to Melbourne in 1961 where he began studying at the University of Melbourne and became part of the small but flourishing Melbourne arts scene. Robert was running a freelance penthouse photo studio in Flinders Street, Melbourne when he had his fateful meeting with The Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein, during their 1964 Australian tour. His meeting came about more or less by accident, when he accompanied a journalist friend to an interview with Brian Epstein for an article for the Jewish News. The picture was published with the article, which led to his meeting with Epstein and his first shots of the Beatles, pictures of Paul McCartney and George Harrison each holding up boomerangs presented to them by their Australian fans. Robert Whitaker: “I photographed Epstein, saw he was a bit of a peacock and a cavalier, and put peacock feathers around his head in photographic relief. He was knocked out when he saw the picture. After that, he saw an exhibition of collages I had at the Museum of Modern Art and immediately offered me the position of staff photographer at NEMS, photographing all his artists. I initially turned it down, but after seeing The Beatles perform at Festival Hall I was overwhelmed by all the screaming fans and I decided to accept the offer to return to England.” On his arrival in England in August 1964, Whitaker set to work photographing the members of the NEMS stable including Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Cilla Black. Bob also did several photographs of the hugely successful Australian folk-pop group The Seekers. But it was with The Beatles and especially John Lennon, with whom he became close friends, that Bob created his most famous and enduring work. One of his first assignments was photographing The Beatles during their triumphant second American tour, including the historic Shea Stadium concert in New York. He spent the next two years traveling with the Beatles and shooting them at work, at rest and at play, on their tours, at home, in the recording studio, during private moments, and in formal photo-sessions.