In 1964, 18-year-old Mike Mitchell was working for a magazine in Washington D.C. When he heard The Beatles were coming to perform in the US for the first time, he managed to get his hands on a press pass to the concert.
He took his camera to Washington Coliseum, and later the Baltimore Civic Centre, to snap a few modest photos of The Beatles’ very first concerts in the US.
At the time, the photographer took the photos in ambient light because he couldn’t afford a flash gun. But that unique lighting would end up creating some of the rarest photos of the band ever taken.
“I went to that concert not with the idea of photographing it as an event, but with the idea of coming away with portraits of these guys,” Mitchell explained.
“They were an unknown species to American culture. They were bringing something so different that I wanted to get an up close look to see who they were.”
Now, decades later, Mitchell’s previously unpublished prints have been sold at an auction for a staggering amount of money.
Of the 413 black-and white prints, 350 of them have never been seen before by the public.
The photos include those of the band on stage and during pre-show press conferences just two days after their famed debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Mitchell explained how he was looking to capture something that hadn’t been taken by any other photographer before.
“I was very motivated to come up with stuff that was as unique as could possibly be,” he said.
“I looked and noticed that nobody was up on the stage. I thought, I wonder what it would be like to be up on the stage and see what I could get up there.”
His unique vantage point and natural lighting would set his photos apart from all others and the time — and it would make quite a bit of money as well.
“This is an incredible archive. The unique combination of perspective and light sets them apart from any other Beatles photographs of that period,” auctioneer Paul Fairweather said.
“This was reflected in prices achieved for a small selection of prints in 2011, so for the entire archive to be sold with copyright, this is a unique opportunity for collectors and investors alike.”
In 2011, Mitchell sold 43 digitally restored prints for a whopping $362,000. Now, he’s done it again, as the remaining images were sold with full copyright at a Beatles auction in England for $358,000.
The photos sold much higher than original estimates, which were between only $2,000 and $3,000.
The low estimates were most likely because Mitchell was an unknown photographer, but it’s clear someone at the auction that day knew just how much the rare images were really worth.
“The photographs are intimate, due to Mitchell’s proximity to the band; they are moody, the result of existing light; and they are innocent, reflecting a time of heightened optimism,” Omega Auction House explained.
Watch the video below to view the entire collection:
Fairweather agreed, going on to say that the “fantastic sale” truly “shows that The Beatles market is still as strong as ever.”
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