Never-Before-Seen Photos of John Lennon and Yoko Ono
09 February, 2015
New York Times publishes an article about yet unknowns photos of John Lennon and Yoko Ono taken decades ago.
“A little over 30 years ago, the Japanese photographer Kishin Shinoyama walked through Central Park with one of the most famous couples in the world. It was sunset, autumn; they sat on a bench just in front of the pond, bordered by trees, a sliver of New York skyline visible in the distance, including the building where they lived. He asked
them to kiss, and he clicked the shutter. Three months later, on Dec. 8, 1980, John Lennon was fatally shot at the entrance to the Dakota, home to him and his wife, Yoko Ono. Just three weeks prior to Lennon’s death, Shinoyama’s photograph of John and Yoko’s kiss at Central Park Pond had appeared on the cover of what would be their final studio album, “Double Fantasy.” Shinoyama made other photographs that day, of course — 800 in all, in fact — but many of them have never been shown until now, on the occasion of Taschen’s forthcoming publication of “Kishin Shinoyama. John Lennon & Yoko Ono. Double Fantasy” ($700), out this month. A video trailer for the book premieres here.

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The book was Ono’s idea, Shinoyama explains over email, through a translator (he does not speak English). It was triggered by a 2010 exhibition in Tokyo celebrating the 30th anniversary of the album. “There were many pictures that Yoko had never seen for over 30 years,” he says. “She said to me ‘Thank you for taking images of my happiest time. How about making a photo book with these pictures?'”

Three decades earlier, they’d begun shooting in the studio where Lennon and Ono were recording, before winding up in the park, where Ono wanted to take “a cover photo.” The first of that series by the pond was the one. Though he’d been nervous about meeting the former Beatle, as Shinoyama recalls in the video, he was quickly put at ease by how approachable Lennon was: “He was so nice and sweet.” It set the tone for the day. “I did not try to step into their private life,” Shinoyama remembers now. “I tried to not interfere and capture his tender and gentle personality silently, so that I could shoot him in a very natural way, so that you couldn’t imagine that we had never met before.” Revisiting the pictures took Shinoyama back to the moment he learned of John Lennon’s death. “I was in my office,” he remembers. “All of the sudden my phone began to ring, people calling from newspapers and TV. I was too shocked to do anything.” Everyone in Tokyo, it seemed, wanted to get the reaction of one of the last Japanese people to have met John and Yoko in person. “I told my feelings honestly,” he says. “I had the ‘Double Fantasy’ record jacket in front of me at the time. I took it in color, but the record was released with the image in black and white. I wondered why they changed it.”

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Shinoyama has a photographer’s awareness of fleeting time. As he says in the video, “Every moment ends instantly — it becomes past, you know.” Looking at his pictures now, does he find anything in them he didn’t notice then? “As I see it now, I still think that John’s and Yoko’s pure love continues on,” he says. “From this angle, I can see,” the New York Times reports.

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