John Lennon and Yoko Ono simulate making love – Allan Tannenbaum’s best photograph

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I archetypal met John Lennon successful 1975, backstage astatine a televised lawsuit successful New York erstwhile I was unit lensman for the SoHo Weekly News. Years later, portion I was inactive astatine the paper, we decided to tally an interrogation with Yoko Ono up of the merchandise of the couple’s caller album, Double Fantasy. They had spent the erstwhile 5 years arsenic recluses, during which clip they had their son, Sean. I didn’t cognize Yoko personally but I’d ever had a batch of respect for her arsenic an artist, and of people I was a large instrumentality of John’s. The thought was that we’d get entree to the brace of them by approaching Yoko first.

On 20 November 1980, Yoko came to my Tribeca workplace for the shoot. She was shy successful beforehand of the camera but yet grew much comfortable, taking disconnected her shades and leather jacket, yet striking a cute airs with her manus connected her jeans zipper. We agreed to instrumentality much shots the adjacent time astatine the flat gathering wherever she and John lived, the Dakota. I had meal adjacent and walked around, trying to find the close infinitesimal to inquire Yoko whether we could instrumentality photos with John and Sean arsenic well. “Not Sean,” she said. “But I’ll telephone John.” He was affable and said helium remembered maine from the lawsuit successful 1975, though possibly helium was lone being polite. The 3 of america walked astir their favourite country of Central Park, aboriginal named Strawberry Fields successful John’s memory.

Five days later, I got a telephone asking maine to articulation them astatine the sprout of the Starting Over euphony video. After filming them walking astir the park, we went to different of their favourite spots, Cafe La Fortuna connected West 71st Street, to portion java and talk. Then we acceptable disconnected for SoHo’s Sperone Westwater assemblage successful their limo. It was wide I had earned their spot and they felt comfy with me. The assemblage had been acceptable up to look similar their existent bedroom, with lights extracurricular shining done venetian blinds. For the archetypal portion of the filming they wore their mean clothes, but past took them disconnected and simulated making love. Many of the unit were asked to permission but I remained, taking photographs discreetly. Their enactment was fluid and natural, their emotion for each different palpable.

This shot, with John lying connected apical of Yoko, was taken aft a infinitesimal of tension. John kept trying to buss Yoko, but she’d determination her chin higher and higher. “What is this … Ben fucking Hur?” helium joked and it broke the ice. Everybody connected acceptable cracked up, particularly Yoko. That’s erstwhile I got this changeable of them laughing. Back astatine the Dakota a fewer days later, looking done the interaction sheets, John said: “These are great! You cognize what I similar astir your photographs? They truly seizure Yoko’s beauty.”

On 8 December, the time of John’s assassination, my exertion called. He told maine John had been shot. I was successful shock. That night, aft photographing astatine the infirmary and constabulary station, I stood extracurricular the Dakota until the aboriginal morning, with hundreds of others who joined the vigil. A fewer days later, Yoko asked maine to travel to the apartment. When I arrived, she was successful bed. Her grief filled the room. She told maine she wanted to support busy. It was her lone mode to cope.

We worked unneurotic connected a task for the azygous Walking connected Thin Ice. It was the past opus she and John had written together: John had been holding the last premix erstwhile helium was killed. I photographed a frozen reservoir successful upstate New York, though it wasn’t utilized arsenic the grounds overgarment arsenic intended, but alternatively arsenic a inactive photograph successful the video clip. I remained successful interaction with Yoko for galore years, attending her day parties and moving connected projects together. She kindly wrote the foreword of my book, John & Yoko: A New York Love Story. The past clip I saw her was possibly 4 years ago.

I became a lensman due to the fact that I’ve ever liked exertion and art; photography merges the 2 disciplines. My grooming had been successful good creation and film-making, truthful I fundamentally taught myself photography successful the 60s with a 35mm camera. My curiosity for radical and involvement successful journalism besides drove me. The occupation astatine SoHo Weekly News, which I got successful 1973 astatine the property of 28, was my large break. It gave maine entree to New York’s euphony scene: the concerts and backstage life, arsenic good arsenic the nightlife astatine Studio 54. I’ve met and photographed astir everyone from that scene: the Clash, Nico, Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and David Bowie. The thrill of being portion of that is what keeps maine going today.

Allan Tannenbaum’s CV

Allan Tannenbaum.
Allan Tannenbaum. Photograph: Joachim Johnson

Born: New Jersey, 1945.
Trained: BA successful creation from Rutgers University successful 1967; postgraduate movie section astatine San Francisco State University, 1967-1968.
Influences: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brassaï, Robert Capa, Weegee, Garry Winogrand, Robert Frank, David Bailey, Paul Fusco, Ralph Gibson.
High point: “Photographing John Lennon and Yoko Ono, November 1980.”
Low point: “Photographing the aftermath of Lennon’s assassination, December 1980.”
Top tip: “When asking lensman Ralph Gibson successful my aboriginal days astatine the SoHo News astir what absorption I should take, helium said: ‘The enactment volition amusement you the way.’ And that’s what happened. Another extremity from Jaakov Kohn, archetypal exertion of the SoHo News: ‘Perseverance furthers.’”

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