EPPRIDGE’S TIMELESS LOOK AT THE FAB FOUR
by Brian Goslow
Danbury, Connecticut – It was, inarguably, one of those moments in which everything changed. On February 9, 1964, The Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time, setting Beatlemania into full gear and sparking a cultural shift that still echoes today. Photojournalist Bill Eppridge documented the Fab Four’s first tour of the United States for Life magazine, taking “Three thousand images on 90 rolls of film” — only four of which ended up being printed in the publication at the time.
“Bill was in the Life magazine offices early on the day that the Beatles were scheduled to arrive at JFK Airport,” said Eppridge’s wife, Adrienne Aurichio. “The director of photography, Dick Pollard, saw Bill and asked him if he wanted to shoot their arrival. It was not planned as a six-day assignment. Bill turned it into that when he saw what was happening at the airport. He was intrigued by the excitement of the fans that came out to see the Beatles, and sensed a historical moment. When he saw the Beatles emerge from the plane, he knew he had to shoot a story.
“As soon as the press conference was over, he phoned the office and asked if he could stick with them. The magazine encouraged the photographers to ‘self-assign,’ as Bill liked to describe it. He and Life reporter Gail Cameron were invited along by the Beatles, and probably by their manager, Brian Epstein. Life magazine had a tremen- dous reputation in those days, and to be featured in Life was a big deal. Remember, the Beatles had never been to the United States, and they were not sure what to expect, either.”
The collection of images then disappeared for eight years, only to suddenly reappear on Eppridge’s desk without explanation. They wouldn’t be fully revis- ited again until early this decade when Aurichio went through each and every one of them in putting together the book, “The Beatles: Six Days That Changed the World” (Rizzoli), the title of which is also the name of an exhibition of 55 black- and-white photos from that 1964 tour on view at Western Connecticut State University beginning January 19.
“Bill liked to tell a story through his photographs,” Aurichio said. “The first thing we had to establish was the timeline of how he shot the story, and where the photographs fit on each of the six days that he spent with the Beatles. Life had a negative numbering system, which made it easier to organize all the negatives. From there, we recon- structed the six days, and then picked the best photographs from each day. That is a matter of content and compo- sition. You need both of those together for great photographs.”
Aurichio co-curated the exhibition with Wade Lawrence of the Museum at Bethel Woods (which sits on the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair) where the exhibit was first shown in April 2014. “We got together months after Bill had passed away and went through the book to determine which photographs would best represent the entire story,” she said. “The Museum had only enough wall space for 55 prints, which were framed to 20” x 24” size.”
Eppridge passed away in 2013 after a heralded career that included covering the Civil Rights Movement, Woodstock