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Beatles fans eye rare display of Fabs photos

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Robert Freeman was favored snapper of Beatles between 1963 and 1965

He photographed and designed five consecutive Beatles' album sleeves

Exhibition of his collection on display in London for first time in 20 years

Prints include only example left of one ultra large "Rubber Soul" print

London CNN —  

The first solo exhibition in about 20 years of early photos of the Beatles taken by a British photographer who designed five of their UK album covers is on display in London.

Robert Freeman photographed and designed the Fab Four’s second to sixth album covers and was the group’s favored snapper for three years between 1963 and 1966 in their early and middle stages of fame. Freeman also traveled with the band on their momentous first tour of USA in 1964 when Beatlemania first spread across the Atlantic.

Freeman, who is now in his 70s and lives near Seville in Spain, sold his entire Beatles collection to rock ’n’ roll photo curator and agent Raj Prem many years ago.

The 58-year-old Londoner has put up a solo exhibition of Freeman’s work at Snap Galleries in Piccadilly Arcade, London.

“Someone gave me Freeman’s number in Spain and I contacted him and flew over to see him,” Prem says.

“I was so impressed by his collection of Beatles photos that I kind of did a deal and gave him some money and bought the entire collection. The increasing scarcity of the prints is making them go up in value all the time,” he adds. “I did not know when I bought them that they would go up because I was at the beginning of my career – I had no idea at all,” says Prem.

Freeman made no more than 25 editions of each print and many editions are now almost sold out. He is not making any more prints, so for some of the photos on sale, there is just one example left – signed and numbered by him.

“He was very close to Lennon,” Prem says, explaining that Freeman even lived in a flat below Lennon in London for one year. Freeman also photographed and designed the covers of John Lennon’s first two books, “In His Own Write” and “A Spaniard in the Works” too.

According to Prem, Freeman described Lennon as “highly creative, very witty and a very surreal person – the most interesting of all the Beatles.”

“But he did say to me once that he found Ringo Starr the most interesting to photograph as he’s got a large nose and a face with a kind of pathos. He always said Lennon was the best looking,” he adds.

After graduating from Cambridge University in 1959, Freeman became a photographer working for the Sunday Times and various magazines.

It was moody black and white pictures he took of John Coltrane at the London Jazz Festival in 1963 that impressed Beatles manager Brian Epstein that led to his first commission – to shoot the cover of the Beatles’ second album, “With the Beatles.” It is now one of the most famous sleeves in rock music.

He proceeded to photograph the next four consecutive Beatles’ album covers – “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Beatles for Sale,” “Help!” and “Rubber Soul” – all considered seminal and ahead of their time compared to LP designs at the time. Some covers, like the music, were modified for the U.S. market.

“Freeman was not the only photographer who took pictures of the Beatles but he was the only one who worked with them for a continuous period of three years and he was their favorite photographer during that time,” Prem says. “He toured with them. He was obviously a trusted confidante.”