How convenient for the rest of us that when Bob Bonis embarked on the Beatles' and Rolling Stones' first U.S. tours from 1964-66, he thought to toss his modest Leica M3 camera in his suitcase. Bonis, who served as the bands' tour manager during these crucial first U.S. appearances, captured the groups in over 3,500 deeply intimate, behind-the-scenes photos that were never revealed to the public -- until now.
"The Lost Beatles and The Lost Rolling Stones Photographs," a collection of nearly 200 of Bonis' shots, will be on exhibition at The Betsy hotel on Miami Beach throughout Art Basel week. Already blown away by this shot of a baby-faced Mick Jagger, lounging poolside in Clearwater in 1965? Well keep your red Speedo on, because there is plenty more revealing portraiture where that came from.
The exhibit, which is free and open to the public and debuts on Monday, December 3, will be curated by Larry Marion, author of The Lost Rolling Stones Photographs (2010) and The Lost Beatles Photographs (2011). The two books were the general public's first peek into the seriously intimate backstage world that Bonis shared and documented with the wee Beatles and Stones. Now, you may not recognize the name Bob Bonis, but he played a crucial role in introducing two iconic bands to U.S. soil, along with millions of fans for generations.
"Bob Bonis was the luckiest person on the planet, in my opinion," said Marion. "He had access that no one else had, plain and simple."
Marrion, himself a gallery owner, author, and rock n' roll memorabilia expert, might also be considered pretty darn lucky as well, given that he has been charged with the joyful task of sharing Bonis' revelatory Beatles and Rolling Stones photos with the public.
Until very recently, the pictures had been boxed up and for all purposes forgotten. Following the passing of Bob Bonis in 1992, his son, Alex, inherited a treasure trove of rock n' roll artifacts, many of which had never seen the light of day. When he stumbled across a stack of contact sheets displaying thousands of photo negatives, he enlisted the help of Marion, who immediately identified the pictures as one-of-a-kind.
"Bob was an amateur photographer, but the word "amateur" just speaks to what you get paid, not your talent," Marion said. "The result is intimate, honest, candid photography at its finest."
Marion brought up a great point about rock n' roll memorabilia during our conversation by positing that these pictures, unlike so many before them, are raw and completely unstaged.
"Virtually all the photos that we have come to treasure over the years have been been staged by professional photographers. The pictures are wonderful, but they aren't real. Bob's pictures have a candid, fly-on-the wall nature to them. He captures not just their jobs as musicians, but their lives as everyday people."
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With support from Alex Bonis, Marion established Not Fade Away Gallery in New York City, which unveiled 76 of the photos for the first time. Next came the two books, published by Harper Collins. Now Miami will get its taste of the "lost" photos at Art Basel with its own special premiere: a handful of the 200 photos in the Art Basel exhibit will be on display for the first time ever.
The photos will encompass the entirety of the Betsy Hotel, taking over the walls of the Betsy's hallways, lobby and adjoining restaurant, BLT Steak. The Betsy-South Beach has made a name for itself as a cultural and artistic epicenter in our fair city, and this exhibition will prove no different.
Although "The Lost Beatles and The Lost Rolling Stones Photographs" will be on display for several months following Art Basel, Marion will be on hand during Art Basel week only, to give guided tours and speak to visitors about the photographs. All of the prints will be on sale as fine art limited editions, for those of you that can afford it. Or if you're like us, you'll be there because not only is this event free, it will be one of the coolest events at Art Basel for music lovers. And we definitely need to see this Mick Jagger red Speedo pic up close and personal.