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(photo credit: Courtesy Paul Saltzman)
Don't throw out those old boxes in your closet! I kept my childhood baseball trading cards in a couple of shoeboxes in my parents' house until they moved out a couple decades ago. Stupidly, I gave them to a young cousin, who now, conveniently can't remember what he did with them. The cards were undoubtedly too scuffed up to be of much value besides the sentimental kind. It was just the feeling of an irreplaceable part of youth being forever lost.
Paul Saltzman, wisely, didn't throw out his box. But, then again, the 63-year-old Canadian film maker had something much more original and valuable than a bunch of dog-eared baseball cards.
In 1968, as a young counter-culture warrior, but lacking "a sense of peace, of self-confidence, even a sense of meaning for my life," he set out from his Montreal home for a journey to India. Through a set of serendipitous circumstances, he ended up at the same ashram to learn meditation as another group of mid-20s spiritual seekers - The Beatles.
The amazingly candid and extremely rare photographs he took of John, Paul, George and Ringo lay in his closet for 30 years, until he took them out at his daughter's bequest in 1998, and published them in book form.
Now, they make up half of Imagine Liverpool, a new photo exhibition currently on display at Dizengoff Center. Liverpool's tourism association, the sponsor of the exhibition, is aiming to publicize its city featuring its most famous exports as well as archives of the Liverpool Football Club in order to encourage Israeli tourism there.
It's unclear how pictures of The Beatles at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram in Rishikesh is going to promote tourism to Liverpool. But that's no reason not to visit the exhibit. Nor should it prevent asking a seemingly sane person why they would keep such a treasure buried away for 30 years.
"It was a case of 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind' and I forgot about them," said Saltzman from his home in Ontario, where he settled upon his return from India. Since he has enjoyed a highly successful career in film and television.
"I needed to put some distance in there, so I took all the photos I had taken and put them away for a while," he said, but was reminded about the photos 10 years ago by his then-18-year-old daughter.
"I guess when she was about 7, I told her a bedtime story about my trip to India and meeting The Beatles. So years later, she had become a Beatles fan on her own and came in and asked to see the pictures," said Saltzman.
Relieved to discover that they were in perfect shape, Saltzman realized it was time to share the images with the rest of the world. The month and a half The Beatles spent in India were among the group's only idyllic times of their turbulent lifespan.
From the onset of Beatlemania in 1964 through the constant recording and touring and the hippie pied pipers of drug-led revolution phase, the group had never had a chance to stop and get off the merry-go-round. In India, they, along with their wives and girlfriends and famous friends like Donovan and Mia Farrow, relaxed, meditated and reflected. And, of course, they played music.
Given the opportunity, their creative juices were unleashed and especially Lennon and McCartney produced dozens of songs during their time in Rishikesh, many of them winding up on The White Album. Saltzman's photos catches the most famous group in the world caught unguarded, in un-pop star mode.
"We were just joking and laughing. That was the magic, I was just part of the groupâ€¦ I wasn't a photographer. I was a kid with a camera. I had the least expensive Pentax 35 mm with two lenses," he said.
"They played a lot, but also meditated and just hung out chatting at the long table by the edge of the cliff overlooking the Ganges, far below, and the town of Rishikesh, across the river."
Sounds amazing. Let's hope Saltzman doesn't wait another 30 years to pull out those photos of Elvis jamming with Dylan and Hendrix from his closet.
The exhibition is being shown at Dizengoff Center, 3rd floor of the southern building (entry via gate 1, 3, 5 or 7) from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is a mere NIS 10. For more information visit visitliverpool.com or thebeatlesinindia.com