The day a photographer stopped London traffic and in ten minutes made art worth tens of thousands
50 years after The Beatles walked across a zebra crossing in Abbey Road for a photoshoot, thousands of people came together at the same spot to celebrate.
Traffic was stopped, buses and bicycles diverted and the road closed so that thousands of fans had their chance to snap their own photographs and sing Beatles’ hits in homage.
What were they celebrating? Nobody really knows.
But it is a fact that 11.38am on August 8, 1969, a friendly London bobby agreed to hold up the traffic for just ten minutes to allow the late Scots-born photographer Iain Macmillan set-up his gear and take a series of photographs.
Iain was not only a brilliant lensman he was nifty too. In that brief ten minutes he managed to take six frames, one of which was used to grace The Beatles last studio album Abbey Road.
It’s also a fact that when those original images taken by Iain came up for auction in 2014, they sold for £180,000 attracting bids from all across the world.
A spokeswoman for the auctioneers told the press at the time that the original zebra crossing idea was conceived by Sir Paul McCartney in a sketch which Iain brought to reality on the crossing and captured for posterity through his lens.
Signed versions of the full set of images would certainly sell for a colossal amount today.
Fifty years later, that ten minutes on a zebra crossing still inspires people and brings them together as The Beatles themselves urged everyone in the title of opening song on the album.
If you drill a little deeper into the story there were conspiracies that the photo contained subliminal messages suggesting that Sir Paul was in fact dead at the time. There were rumours everywhere that the band was about to split up.
The number plate on the VW Beetle parked on the pavement was LMW 28IF sparked conspiracy theorists to claim the plate had the hidden meaning – Linda McCartney Weeps for Paul who was deceased at 28. That kind of nonsense just added the mythology of the image. Even the VW Beetle is itself is now an exhibit in a German museum. It’s all quite bizarre.
In a “life-affirming” event, a few years later, Iain and Paul collaborated again. It was long after the Beatles split and he got to work with his camera re-united with the now famous zebra crossing.
This time Paul was snapped crossing the road holding the lead to his beloved Old English sheep dog Martha. The image was used on a solo album Paul is Live. Nothing subliminal in the image this time!
Iain Macmillan died in 2006, but his photographic work has inevitably become more valuable over time and not only for the Abbey Road Beatles studies.
Yoko Ono invited him in 1966 to photograph her own art exhibitions, which is said to be how he met John Lennon and the Beatles.
He also took many stunning photographs of London and his home town of Dundee.
Iain’s friendship with Paul and Linda endured until his death. His work will endure forever and will be worth watching out if you are a collector of photographic art.
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