Unique Archive of Beatles Photographs for Sale

On March 24, a unique archive of photographs of the Beatles will go on sale and is expected to fetch at least $350,000 at auction. Photographer Mike Mitchell was just 18 when he shot the Beatles' first US concert in 1964, and the 413 negatives with full copyright are available to purchase. Mike's story of how the photographs came about is compelling.

"I was in a point in my life where I was learning that photography could take me anywhere," explains Mike, more than 50 years later. Because of the equipment that he had available, Mike shot in black and white without flash and used only available light. 

(Gallery removed as per copyright restrictions on March 24 2018.)

Coming two days after The Beatles legendary appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Mitchell also attended the press conference before the gig at the Washington Coliseum, before photographing them again a month later at the Baltimore Civic Center. With virtually no restrictions, Mitchell shot with the intention of creating portraits rather than merely documenting the events and was able to move freely about the stage, producing an intimate encounter with a group that was bringing something completely different to popular culture.

In 2011, Mitchell produced 46 unique prints, each embedded with a tiny heart-shaped watermark, sold at auction by Christie's in London. The images were expected to fetch $100,000 but ended up selling for more than three times that amount. Seven years later, Mitchell has decided to sell the complete archive: 413 negatives, the 46 digitally-restored high resolution images, 10 other scans not used for the 2011 prints, and scans of contacts sheets. Mitchell's archive sat untouched in his basement for decades before he decided to explore their value. One of the iconic images from the collection was so underexposed that it was only through scanning and digital restoration that a viable print was possible. In 2011, estimated at $3,000, the 16x16.25-inch gelatin silver print, signed and numbered 1/1, sold for $68,500.

The images give a remarkable insight into the era, offering a glimpse into the energy that the Beatles brought with them and the palpable optimism of the 1960s. Despite this, one of the magazines that published Mitchell's photographs didn't believe the hype and produced a cynical article about the Beatles that saw them as nothing more than a fad. A little jaded, Mitchell says that he then put the negatives into storage inside a box labeled "Beedles" where they remained untouched for almost 50 years.

The archive will go on sale at Omega Auctions (U.K.) on Saturday March 24.

Images courtesy of Mike Mitchell and Omega Auctions. As the copyright of these photographs is being sold, the images illustrating this article will be removed on March 24. 

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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