Shea Stadium 1966 concert photos thought lost found

A rare shot, taken from behind the group, seeing what they saw. © Collister

Brian Collister’s father, Bob Collister, was a photographer in New York in the 1960s. Brian Collister recently discovered many of his dad’s photos and negatives, which include pictures of a Beatles’ 1966 concert at Shea Stadium, NFL football games and many other news events. Now he is auctioning off the Beatles photos, copyright included.

A professional photographer, Robert “Bob” Collister had died in San Antonio in 2019. He lived in New York City and New Jersey most of his life, doing freelance work for East Coast newspapers and some corporate clients. His son, Brian Collister told his story to San Antonio Express News: “Dad was a Navy vet and he was dying of lung cancer at Audie Murphy (VA Medical Center in San Antonio). And he whispered, `I want you to have all my photography.’ Then he said I should look in the very bottom of the closet in a clear plastic bin with a purple top and I might find some stuff we thought had been lost.” The bin held more than 100 tattered, light brown envelopes, carefully marked with a description of the assignment, sometimes including notations about the camera, lens and settings used. One envelope set Collister’s heart racing: “Beatles 8/23/66 Shea.”

Collister is now auctioning off his treasure trove of Beatles photos, negatives, prints, contact sheets and copyrights. The starting bid is $10 000 and the money raised will 100% go to the Investigative Network, a nonprofit news documentary service where Collister is CEO. It will set up a fund in Bob Collister’s name to provide workshops, training and freelance work for photo and video journalists. The lot comprises two rolls of black-and-white film, 72 photos in all, shot in 1966 at the Beatles’ concert at Shea Stadium during the band’s final tour. A concert, we might add, the band themselves didn’t remember when reminiscing about their 1965 Shea Stadium concert in the Anthology TV series. Only 36 of the photos are depicting the Beatles on stage, the rest are shots of the audience.

Brian Collister’s favourite shot from that night, a photo that also hung in his father’s New Jersey apartment for many years, shows Lennon and McCartney facing each other at the microphone, singing what the son’s research says was likely “If I Needed Someone.” “As a child I was mesmerized by the huge framed photograph of Paul McCartney and John Lennon sharing a microphone hanging in my father’s apartment. As he blasted Beatles music out of his stereo system, I thought it was so cool that my Dad stood just a few feet in front of the band and taken that picture. For more than two decades my father believed he’d lost his print, and long since lost the negatives. But after his passing I discovered an envelope buried in a box filled with his archives simply labeled “Beatles” along with the settings he used to print from the negative. If he were alive today to see the entire collection of his work on that day had been found, he’d be very proud to use them to further our work as journalists.”

“My Dad broke away from the barriers at stage left that were holding back the press. He had to “get the shot” and being penned up was not going to restrain his instincts. Because he was so close to the stage and alone, there are shots where Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are staring right at him. There is a shot from behind the band, it gives you the sense of the concert from their perspective – what they saw. I’ve never seen a Beatles photo like it. There’s a shot of John Lennon with a spotlight over his head, pointed directly into the camera. The “halo effect” was intentional. My father learned his craft from W. Eugene Smith (described as “perhaps the single most important American photographer in the development of the editorial photo essay.”) while studying at the New York Institute of Photography. My Dad captured a moment of magic between the Beatles in one picture. You can see John Lennon has a big grin because he and Paul McCartney are clearly getting a laugh out of something Ringo Starr is doing”.

Beatles biographer Mark Lewisohn comments:
“Capturing as he did the deep intensity of interest in the Beatles, Bob Collister was far from being the only photographer present that night, but his need to ‘get the shot’ enticed him further and deeper in. Going up close to the stage and especially venturing behind it was a savvy move–he was able to capture the Beatles’ own viewpoint, performing not only to a wall of screams but towering Shea Stadium grandstands adorned with banners of love and devotion. This second Beatles appearance at Shea was their last New York concert, because it turned out to be their final tour. The band re-emerged transformed nine months later with the Sgt. Pepper album, casting scenes such as this decisively into their past. The unearthing of these original negatives is momentous. I would certainly consider including one or two of these dramatic photos in the second volume of my history The Beatles: All These Years.”

You can go and admire the photos on the Investigative Network website. Read the full story on San Antonio Express News.

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