Julian Lennon on His 'Timeless' Photo Exhibition

'My dad wasn't really a photographer, so it just allows me to breathe a little more,' says Lennon. 'This is my own thing.' Plus: Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Patti Boyd at the gallery opening

September 17, 2010 4:40 PM ET

The opening of Julian Lennon’s "Timeless: The Photography of Julian Lennon" last night at New York’s Morrison Hotel Gallery, was, as you might expect, jam-packed. Midway through the evening, Yoko Ono, Sean and Julian Lennon themselves emerged into the room for a tour, laughing together and pausing to look at intimate shots of U2. "My dad wasn’t really a photographer, so it just allows me to breathe a little more," Lennon told Rolling Stone. "He used to take a couple Polaroid’s, but it wasn’t a potential career. This is my own thing."

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Julian's mother Cynthia Lennon, Patti Boyd, George Harrison’s first wife, and Sid Bernstein, 92, the promoter who first brought the Beatles to the U.S., also came to see the exhibit, Lennon’s first. May Pang, Lennon's girlfriend during his eighteen-month “Lost Weekend” between 1973 to 1975, also attended — making it the first time she, Cynthia Lennon, Yoko Ono, Sean and Julian have all been in the same room together. The photos fell into two categories: landscapes, and portraits of celebrity friends like Kate Hudson and U2, shot as they recorded their next album. Lennon said he became serious about his hobby when he spent two weeks on the road with Sean Lennon as Sean toured Eastern Europe. "I surprised him on the road," Lennon says. "I literally turned up at a gig."

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Lennon says U2 approached him earlier this summer looking for a studio to finish some tracks. He offered at his 14th century home in the South of France. "The Edge came to me and said ‘Please take some pictures," Lennon recalls. Displayed were several intimate black-and-white shots of the band: a close-up of Bono’s weathered-seeming face, a candid of Adam Clayton sitting alone on a white stairwell, and the Edge sitting in a booth on a plane, with a lyric sheet in front of him. "To a degree, it’s a side of the boys that hasn’t been seen before … I just didn’t want to get in the way," Lennon said. "The moment I thought there was any heavy air, I would clear out."

One of the most striking U2 shots is of Bono in the studio, sitting underneath a headshot of John Lennon in his early greaser days. "Initially, I called it a Lennon sandwich," Julian said. "Now I call it ‘Someone to Look up to.’ Bono was there, and I look up to him, and he looks up to dad." Lennon also shot the band onstage in Vienna in late August. "They’re mates, so if they’re on the road and I’m in the neighborhood, I’m there."

For music, Lennon played the instrumental version of his first full album since 1998’s Photograph Smile. He told RS the album has been finished for three years, but he hasn’t released yet because of frustrations with the music business. He does, however, expect to put it out this spring. "In some ways the photography will bring people back to the music," Lennon observed. "The process of doing [photo] work and getting it out to the public is a lot smoother than the road I’ve had with music."

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Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

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Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

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