Every photographer dreams about making a mark. Taking a photo that will be known by the whole world and even replicated endless times. Just like any other artist. A musician wants to write a song that people all around the world will sing for another thousand years. But how one comes to this creation?
Iain MacMillan achieved this on August 8th 1969 in London and he didn’t even expect it. Who would? The Abbey Road album cover photo was planned but not to such a huge extent or budget. A simple idea of taking a photo in front of famous recording studios of the album that has been recorded there and has the same title. It makes sense, it’s not incredibly creative beyond our imagination, but I guess that is a thing of beauty in creative industry.
Keep it simple
So many times the best things came out from the simplest ideas. At about 11:38 on 8th August 1969, The Beatles stepped out of Abbey Road Studios together with Ian, a freelance photographer, who took a ladder with him. The crossing on the street seemed like a perfect spot to take a photo. With a beetle in the background, although I heard was just accidental, as it was a very popular car back then.
The whole ‘photoshoot’ was sketched by Paul McCartney to give Ian an idea of the cover. The Beatles chose Ian because he was taking photos around London for the books, magazines, exhibitions and he caught the attention of Yoko Ono which lead to John calling him for The Abbey Road album cover shoot.
It was a very hot day in North London so maybe that is why Paul decided to be barefoot in a few shots. The crossing was busy as usual, so the police were needed to stop the traffic.
Ian took his Hasselblad camera with a 50mm wide-angle lens and took a photo with the aperture f22, at 1/500 seconds.
Four members of The Beatles walked the crossing and Ian took 6 photos to document it. I’m pretty sure he had no idea what he just did. Years and years after people are gathering on Abbey Road in London to reproduce and replicate the same photo. People stop traffic to walk the very busy crossing. Some cars are more patient than others but there is no sign of traffic lights so you just have to go there and wait until cars are nowhere to be seen. That happens for about one minute.
Everytime I go there, I see people taking photos there. Tourists, students, day or night… It was actually never empty and it’s 2019.
What is so special about this photo? It’s really hard to say what makes something so unique. And why it wasn’t other photo. We have thousands of The Beatles pictures, so why this one? Art is unpredictable. You never know which piece will make the mark. That is why you have to keep creating every day because you might miss the opportunity to catch that unique moment that will be remembered by the next generations.
You can plan an amazing photoshoot that will take you endless hours to execute properly but it will never have such an impact. Art isn’t fair. If you want to become an artist, which you have to already be one, but you just have to realise it, you need to understand that trying to create something big needs no expectations. As I mentioned before, you need to do your thing and sometimes just take your camera and take that shot or it will be gone forever and never seen in the first place.
To take an example, an album cover photo for Sgt. Pepper record was so exhausting to do, time consuming and it will never be so known and considered better than Abbey Road shot which was created in 10 minutes. Sgt. Pepper cover photo is really good and had its success, so all the effort was not wasted, but creating something for the whole world for another century, or maybe forever takes a spontaneous effort.
When filming something, or taking photos, I don’t go on the street and think to myself, which photo will go viral? What do I have to do to make the mark? The beginner’s mind works like this. I used to do that and it constrained me to create an awesome photos because I was fully focused on the mainstream and success of the photo. Not the actual photo.
It is a tough world of creative mind because we want to be remembered for our art. We want something that people will admire. We do it because we cannot stop doing it, otherwise we would probably die but even if we have no views or likes, we still keep doing. On the other hand, who wouldn’t want some appreciation for their work?
How to get to Abbey Road Studios?
The best way to get to Abbey Road Studios is taking a Jubilee line of the London Underground and get off at St. Jonh’s Wood. Then head straight from the Underground station until you see people on the crossing and Abbey Road Studios behind it.
Keep in mind, you can’t just walk into Abbey Road Studios but you can visit the official shop right next to it. They offer a variety of music memorabilia which every Beatle fan will enjoy very much.