Copyright ©2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY and the latest in Photo Op, our occasional series about photography. Go to npr.org to follow along, because you're going to want to see this.

(Soundbite of song, "Watching the Wheels")

CHADWICK: November 1980. John Lennon follows the chords into a song on his new album, "Double Fantasy," which also features Yoko Ono. The two of them are just reemerging after years of relative seclusion in New York.

(Soundbite of song, "Watching the Wheels")

Mr. JOHN LENNON (Singer): (Singing) People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing.

Mr. ALLAN TANNENBAUM (Photographer): I remember John saying that when he picked up the guitar for the first time in many years, it felt very heavy. But when he came out and was ready to meet the world, it was just very exciting because he seemed very full of enthusiasm.

CHADWICK: Allan Tannenbaum was a photographer for the newspaper SoHo Weekly. The couple would do a few interviews for the album. He pitched a shoot just about her; she said yes. They went for a walk in Central Park, Allan with his camera, and John joined them. And that's what you see early in Allan's new book, "John and Yoko: A New York Love Story." Quiet, peaceful, uncrowded moments in the lives of a very famous couple. You see they love each other.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: But those are not the images people are going to be talking about. John and Yoko were getting ready to shoot a music video, still novel then.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: I heard them speaking about an upcoming filming that they were going to be doing for a video for "Double Fantasy." And I suggested to Yoko that they have me there as a stills photographer.

CHADWICK: Allan Tannenbaum worked to be cool about everything, but he was also watching himself and saying in his head, you're being cool about hanging out with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in really beautiful circumstances? He had no idea how much his cool was about to be tested.

(Soundbite of song, "Love")

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) Love is real...

Mr. TANNENBAUM: First, we went for a coffee together, and afterwards Yoko said to me John feels comfortable with you, so you'll come with us to the studio. I went in the limo with them downtown to SoHo, where a gallery had been converted to a film set, which showed a white bedroom and some of their things. You know, it was all lit to simulate sunlight streaming through the blinds. But I was completely astonished when they started doing these scenes, which entailed coming into the set and taking off their clothes and getting into bed and pretending to make love in the nude.

CHADWICK: John is about 40, slender, still youthful, but grown as a man. He's comfortable with himself and with Yoko.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: It was amazing for me and when I look at the pictures now, I'm still amazed that I was able to be there and get these pictures. But nudity was just another form of expression for them, and they seemed very at ease. And it was - I would say it was more of a tenderness that was being shown. It wasn't like a highly-charged erotic situation. But still, there they were, bare and right there for the cameras.

CHADWICK: Most of the images are in black and white, but all are colored by this. Looking at them, we know he's never going to get older. And he is innocent of the terrible day that's so near.

(Soundbite of song, "Oh My Love")

Mr. TANNENBAUM: I think one of my favorite images, I call it John Lennon's cigarette break, and it's just a shot of him by himself wearing the jeans and the gray sweater, sitting on the stairway that they had built as part of their set. And he's just relaxed, and he's just looking at the camera very calmly. And it was just one frame, just like that, but it - I think it captures John in a very quiet, unguarded moment.

CHADWICK: The session ended. Allan went home to his darkroom. He developed slides and contact sheets to show what the pictures would look like. Now it's later, in November 1980. He takes the worksheet to the Dakota building on Central Park where John and Yoko live.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: John came in while I was setting up the projector and he hadn't seen me yet and he said, Yoko, these are great. And then he goes, there you are. You know what I like about your photographs? You make Yoko look so beautiful. You really capture Yoko's beauty.

And then after that I left. And I was very excited because they loved the photos, and they had chosen some that they wanted to have for their personal use. And a few days later, actually, December 8th, I was in the darkroom making prints that I was going to bring up to the Dakota that evening. I had an appointment to show them the prints and bring them the color slide dupes. And as I was making my final prints, the editor of the paper came in and said John Lennon's been shot.

(Soundbite of song, "Oh My Love")

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) Oh my love, for the first time in my life. My mind is wide open...

CHADWICK: Allan Tannenbaum went on to a full and busy life in photography. These pictures were really never seen. Now he's looking back on what he's done. He's got the idea for this book. He owned the pictures; he didn't need anyone to say yes. Still, he asked her anyway.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: So when she went through the page proofs, at first she was a little uptight about some of the things, but basically I saw her face light up. And she really got very excited about the book and was very pleased with everything that we were trying to do.

(Soundbite of song, "Oh My Love")

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) Everything is clear in my world...

Mr. TANNENBAUM: I can only imagine what her thoughts are. It must be a lot of mixed emotions. You know, that kind of tragedy is something that one never gets over. At the same time, I see these pictures as a monument to their love and to what they had together and what a beautiful, shining moment that was in 1980. So I think that ultimately she probably will draw a lot of solace and happiness from these photos, because it does show what they had together so strongly.

(Soundbite of song, "(Just Like) Starting Over")

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) Our life together is so precious together...

CHADWICK: Allan Tannenbaum's new book is "John and Yoko: A New York Love Story." It includes a preface by Yoko Ono. And there's an exhibit of the photos at the Govinda Gallery in Washington, D.C. through next week. And we have images at our Web site, npr.org.

(Soundbite of song, "(Just Like) Starting Over")

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) It's been too long since we took the time, no one's to blame. I know time flies so quickly.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.