Sunday, June 08, 2008

Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon

by May Pang

My first meeting with May, in the early seventies, was fraught with tension and uncertainty. My efforts to reunite Julian with his father after four years could have gone one way or another. May was wonderful, even though she was young and inexperienced in having to deal with such sensitive and emotional issues.

Before long we became close friends. May was open, caring, and compassionate to me and my son, Julian.

For all that May has done in the past and hopes to achieve in the future, Julian and I will be her greatest champions. She is a lovely, vibrant lady. She was a good friend when my son and I needed one, and is a dear, close friend now.

This book of photographic memories is very special and evocative of times remembered. May, we wish you all the luck and success in the world.

We love you,

Cynthia Lennon & Julian Lennon

ISBN 0-312-37741-X

There were times I was a bit reticent about taking out my camera, like when some "old friends" stopped by to hang out. I didn't want to intrude on these moments, but John insisted. He felt that I captured him in ways that no one else did because of his comfort level with me....For years, only my closest friends got to see these photos--which were literally tucked away in a show box in my closet. They were surprised that these images did not convey the John that was portrayed in the press during our time together. In fact, they saw a side of John seldom seen.

--from Instamatic Karma

John Lennon is the most famously photographed Beatle--everyone from Iain MacMillan to Annie Leibovitz took iconic images of him--but there have never been pictures of him like those taken by May Pang, Lennon's girlfriend from 1973 to 1975. In Instamatic Karma, they're collected for the first time. With very few exceptions, these photos are that rare thing: never-before-seen images of an icon. These photos show Lennon in a variety of settings: at work, at play, at home, and away. They show a playful Lennon, a casual, unguarded Lennon; they're the kind of photos one lover takes of another. May has written rich captions to accompany her photos, and taken together, they tell a simple story of the time May and John spent together, a time, according to legend, when Lennon was unhappy and unproductive, estranged from his family and band mates. Pang's photos clearly tell another story--they show Lennon clowning around, working on his hit album Walls and Bridges, embracing old friends and family, hanging out in their apartment on Manhattan's East 52nd Street, relaxing in the country in upstate New York, or spending peaceful days swimming in the waters of Long Island.

The photographs in Instamatic Karma are both color and black and white, casual Polaroids, and more composed shots. Each one is an intimate glimpse into a fascinating time in John Lennon's life.

May Pang worked for ABKCO, the Beatles' management company, in the early 1970s, and from there was hired as John Lennon and Yoko Ono's personal assistant. After her relationship with Lennon ended, Pang worked for Island Records and United Artists. In addition to photography, she designs a line of feng shui jewelry and furniture. She lives in New York with her two children.

Excerpt: California, here we come

Shortly after John and I got together, he decided we would go to Los Angeles for a while. We hopped on a flight with "Uncle" Harold Seider, John's lawyer and trusted advisor from the Allen Klein/ABKCO days (John had hired Harold after he left ABKCO, which came in handy in John's lawsuit against Klein). Harold graciously offered us his apartment and found somewhere else to stay. He knew better than anyone that John had no spending money! We soon met up with two of John's old friends: Rolling Stone Bill Wyman and the Stones' ex-manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. Hanging out with Andrew was always good fun. He was staying at legendary producer Lou Adler's house in Bel Air (Lou had another place in Malibu). Since Andrew would only be in L.A. a few more days, he suggested we ask Lou if we could use the place. We'd put Harold out long enough, so we thought it was a good idea. We didn't know Lou, so Andrew arranged it for us. We ended up staying there close to two months. These pictures, taken poolside at Adler's house, are the first I took of our time together.

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