Henry Grossman wasn’t a fan of the Beatles when he first started photographing them in 1964, but he would become intimately familiar with the group, snapping thousands of photographs of the Fab Four over the next five years. More than 1,000 of these photos have been collected in his new limited edition book, “Places I Remember: My Time With the Beatles.” There are just 1,200 copies in print, and they retail at a whopping $495 a pop. The foreword is written by none other than Paul McCartney.
Grossman’s repertoire, however, goes far beyond pop music. His subjects included some of the biggest names of the ’60s, from politicians (David Ben-Gurion and John F. Kennedy, to name two) to writers (e.e. cummings and Robert Graves) to actors (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton — at their wedding).
Grossman, 76, comes from a family of artists. His father, Elias Grossman, did etchings of Einstein and Gandhi and his depiction of the Western Wall earned him a prize from the Library of Congress. Many of his works were published in the Forward. “So,” the younger Grossman said, “I’m very familiar with the Forward.”
Grossman spoke with the Forward’s Curt Schleier about photographing the Beatles and about the time that Kirk Douglas teased him for working on Yom Kippur.
Curt Schleier: You first met the Beatles when you were assigned to photograph their initial appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Were you familiar with the group at the time?
Henry Grossman: No. I only knew that they were famous. I wasn’t listening to their music at all. I’m a classical music lover. Opera and some Broadway were my forte. I didn’t care for rock music. I heard them on the show, and I enjoyed the music. I didn’t quite understand it. I loved the fact that people were screaming and taking up photogenic postures.
You received additional assignments to photograph them, in the Bahamas and in Austria, where they were filming “Help.” Somehow, over that period your relationship with them seemed to go from professional to personal. How did that happen?
It was probably a matter of personality. I love people. I’m curious. I liked them a lot. I was learning from them. I was having fun with them. When we were in Austria, George said, “When we get back to London, can you take pictures of [my wife], Pattie [Boyd,] and me?” Later we visited John. I wasn’t seizing the moment to pose them in funny ways; I was just around them. I was like a fly on the wall. I was there at a lot of important moments. I was with them the day [their manager], Brian Epstein, died.