BOTTOM LEFT: The Who’s Pete Townshend at BBC Studios in Shepherds Bush, London.
BOTTOM LEFT: The Who’s Pete Townshend at BBC Studios in Shepherds Bush, London.

Counter culture's stars caught on camera

TWO months after then 25-year-old engineer Colin Beard bought his first camera he was shooting Welsh womaniser and pop giant Tom Jones in underwear.

It was 1966 and with the counter-culture surging, upstarts like Yorkshire-born Beard were able to buck the rigid conventions of the craft and deliver raw, in-the-moment windows into rock's most famous personalities.

>> My Generation, an exhibition featuring Colin Beard's 1960s rock photography, is on display at The Channon Gallery throughout November. 

Beard started his fledgling career with Go-Set, a Melbourne-born rock magazine whose student founders would all go on to star in their respective writing and publishing careers.

Things moved at lightning speed for the quick-witted Go-Set crew.

Colin Beard
Colin Beard

One memorable week they flew up to Sydney to get shots of the Rolling Stones during their 1966 tour in time for the debut issue of Go-Set.

After several failed efforts to get backstage, they were eventually admitted to the foyer of the Stones' Kings Cross hotel, and managed to con their way up to the rock stars' room with a parcel for Mick Jagger and asked for some quick shots while the band was packing.

"I didn't know how to take photographs the way I was supposed to; I was taking them from pure instinct," Beard recalled.

"We flew back to Melbourne, worked all night, fell asleep for 20 hours and were woken up to go to the press conference because they'd arrived in Melbourne, and everyone was looking at the magazine hot off the press.

"And Mick Jagger came to me and said, 'these are the best photographs we've ever had taken!'"

They were in the right place at the right time with what became the definitive approach to documenting the era.

Such was the demand for their work, a year later British Airways offered to fly the Go-Set team on a tour of the US and England, where they were feted in London by the publishers of the big rock mag, New Musical Express (NME).

"They said 'these photographs are totally unique - we've never seen anything like it. We'll give you all our contacts if you'll give us prints'."

Their international work was not confined to London.

During a tour of California to shoot the now legendary Monterey Pop Festival, Beard photographed Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, among others.

"Basically I was photographing people in their environment," he explained.

"It comes from raw passion. You're not trying to take great photographs, what you're trying to do is express something genuine, and in doing so, you engage.

LEFT: The Easybeats having breakfast in London before they recorded Friday On My Mind, and before the English public really knew who they were: “They were a bit lost,” Colin Beard recalled.
LEFT: The Easybeats having breakfast in London before they recorded Friday On My Mind, and before the English public really knew who they were: “They were a bit lost,” Colin Beard recalled.

"Defining the extraordinary within the ordinary is the key to great photography."

Rock critic Glenn A Baker would later describe Beard's shots as "almost like he was photographing punk 10 years before punk".

Incredibly, he stayed in rock photography for only two years, graduating to fashion photography and using the same raw approach to shoot covers for Vogue and other big titles.

ABOVE: The Master’s Apprentices taken at a Melbourne cemetery in 1966.
ABOVE: The Master’s Apprentices taken at a Melbourne cemetery in 1966.

By the mid-1970s he had turned to teaching and photo-journalism, publishing several best-selling books of his work including The Mountain Men and Sacred Places of Australia.

Now living on the Sunshine Coast, Beard is a passionate teacher of his craft and has taught and remains friends with many of Australia's best photographers.



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