My Photo Session With Sir George Martin

Remembering George Martin

Being a Photographer in Nashville - You know anyone else , I like The Beatles and have for a very long time.  And to be honest (like anyone else) I have been a casual fan through the years - maybe 2 records and a couple of t-shirts. They are such a part of America, I wouldn’t call myself a fanatic by any standards - I have friends that are - I know what they like (the meat cover, lost tapes , Paul is dead ...etc).    In the summer of 1997 I got the call to shoot with one of my favorite art directors, Derek Selby, who had just started working with Musician Magazine.  He asked if I knew who George Martin was .  Of course I did...even being a casual fan as I was - I knew who George Martin was .  And I definitely knew I should do this shoot .  

We had a few months out to think about what to do and as I normally would do for a shoot I did as much research as I could do back then ...the internet was not quite the powerhouse of info it is today .  I remember thinking how much he was involved with the arrangement and structure of The Beatles music and kept thinking I wanted him to be seen in his natural element doing what he does best .  I went to a few music stores and purchased around 130 dollars of sheet music ...some Puccini , Strauss ....Beethoven ...and on a whim bought him some blank sheet music in hopes that I could shoot him while he “was working”.   

The day of the shoot finally came and my nerves were working overtime - all I could think about was this ...No Matter What I do - he’s seen or been around the coolest thing in the world ...what can I contribute ?  On the subway ride from our hotel to our location at the convention center/ritz carlton my head was swimming on how the shoot would go ...we were walking through the mall and on the way to the hotel we grabbed some food not knowing if we would get any ...and we saw one of the options being a green apple - we all looked at each other like ...oh yeah.

When we finally arrived at the conference room to shoot him - we (Randy powers and I) set everything up quickly and finished just in time before he and his sweet wife Judy walked into the room.  I walked him though the different set ups - one being a portrait of him with these big beetles crawling all over him while he tried to slap them off of him . He was a good sport about that shot in particular and as I remember he had started his career or at least got known for producing comedy records.  I thought he would like this...and he did.  We did a few more shots varying from straight ahead portraits to the shots I had dreamed up of him at the end of this conference table with all the sheet music surrounding him.   As we were finishing he requested some tea from the hotel staff and he stood near the window sipping his tea - after all the set ups I shot him near the window sipping his tea and there it was - the shot .  I had asked him to put his tea cup on the the table and just look out the window for a second and it was the best shot of the day .  Unplanned and from the hip.  It was the best shot of the day ..and I think ..the best shot I’ve ever seen of him.  Looking out over his life and career and feeling peaceful about it.  It’s all there .  I was lucky enough to see it .  

As my friend Derek remembers our time : “The Martins were delightful -- conversational, engaging and even a little wry. George was very patient as we moved him from one spot to another for several different series of photos. My most vivid memory of the morning is from when we had him sit and the end of the long table in the board room. Allen had brought several sheets of blank staff paper (used by musicians and arrangers back in the day when music was written on paper). We spread them out at the end of the table and put a pencil in George's hand and asked him to begin writing on one. He very quietly began. Something at the top of the page. Then scratching along the lines just below. This is the moment frozen it time for me: I'm standing in this room with Sir George he writes hand. 

A print from that part of the shoot has hung in my office -- wherever I've worked -- ever since.”

Many of you that know me know how big of a day this was to me and my career . I think I still list this shoot as my favorite that I have ever done and still do. Talk about nervous. He has worked with what most of us consider the best artist in the world but his demeanor towards me was inviting and he made me feel like what I was doing or coming up with for him was the best thing in the world. I can see now how he was meant to work with artists and bring to light what they were doing. He was the Grand Facilitator and so unselfish . I still have to this day his tea cup that he drank from looking out this same window. As an artist and person he changed me by allowing me to feel alright about who I was that day and I will never forget him or the experience I had working with him. Thanks to Randy Powers & Derek Wesley Selby for a wonderful day !