Throughout the Beatles years, Ringo Starr was often photographed toting a camera – but he thought the pictures he shot had been lost forever. "We finally found them in a basement in storage," he says. "I was shocked. We even found two books of negatives. Who thought I was that tidy?” Now a new book, Photograph (Genesis Publications), collects his photos, plus tons of unseen images of Starr and his bandmates. Many of the photos — stemming from his childhood to his earliest days in the Beatles to candid backstage and in studio shots — have never been seen anywhere.
"We’re having food," Ringo says with a laugh of this shot, likely taken during breakfast somewhere in America in 1965. "I don't actually know where that is. It's very hard to say where that is. John is dressed like it's winter, and George is dressed like it's spring. Anyway, we were having a meal somewhere." Ringo suspects he was sitting next to Lennon and got up to take the shot. "I was not one of those people who would put those negatives away and date them. I would put them in a drawer."
"Well, that is a great pose," Ringo says of this photo of Paul and John, taken sometime around 1964. "I mean, he is a poser, anyway. And, you know, he's doing his Mr. Rock & Roll pose there. I think he is sort of doing Elvis in his own way. You just have to entertain yourself on the road. John's just eating toast or something behind him. This is a great shot. I love this shot."
Paul and manager Epstein in New York, 1964. "That was one of the most exciting periods of my life," Ringo says. "We came on such a high, and, of course, there were all those Beatles wigs around. Brian was loose enough to put the wig on and have a laugh. I think that only I could have gotten shots this candid because they knew they weren't going to go anywhere. It wasn't like, 'Oh my god, they're gonna be in the paper.' All anyone could talk about when we came to America was our hair. The boots were famous. The jackets were famous. The pop songs were famous, but they came in about third. The hair was first."
Ringo with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and some friends in 1961. "I've got all me rings on," he says. "That's why they called me Ringo." This was during the period when Ringo was still playing with Rory Storm (hence his very different look) but also sitting in with the Beatles. "Brian [Epstein] would knock on the door and say, 'They’ve got a session.' And I'd just go play the lunchtime session. We'd go to a club somewhere, or a pub and then I'd be back with Rory. And that happened several times until the end of '61 and of course a lot of the beginning of '62 I played several more times. That's how it happened. . . This is probably one of the first photos of me with the Beatles."
"George on holiday," Ringo says of this shot, taken in Miami in 1964. "It's when we went to Miami to do the second Ed Sullivan Show." All of the Beatles were enthusiastic photographers. "If you look at the shots, we've always got cigarettes or a drink in our hands, and we've all got cameras," Ringo says. "It was just something we all got into. I don't know what shots George took or Paul took. It would be great to put [another] book out."
Paul and John recording in what Ringo thinks is sometime around 1967. One of his regrets is not capturing more images of the band at work. "But we were too busy making music," Ringo says. "What's great [about this picture] is that I'm very close, and they're still doing what they’re doing. You know they're not like, 'Oh, where is the camera?' And I got lucky with the light. It's a pity we couldn't actually read the words of what song we’re doing. Let's just imagine it's 'Hey Bulldog.'"
"I am a poser," says Ringo of this shot, taken in 1961 when he was still in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. "I can play a bit of guitar, but I'm much better at posing than playing."
"We were on holiday here," says Ringo of this photo of him and John, taken sometime around 1966. "And we were having a good time. The four of us always went on holiday together. One time we went to the Spanish Islands. George and I went to Canada once. We were playing Monopoly here, and it looks like I won! I often won."
"We're in the studio here," says Ringo of this shot of John and Paul. "We can only be doing the vocals the way the boys are dressed. My guess is that this is 1964, but these outfits look a little later than that. John and Paul always sang into the same microphone when they did harmonies, and if George was singing he'd be on the same mic too. And that’s why the harmonies are so great because they’re close to each other and they can hear each other."