Our venues
Our museums and galleries

Now these days are gone

The Beatles photographs of Michael Peto

18 August 2007 to 2 March 2008

Please note that this exhibition has now closed

The Beatles were at Twickenham Studios on the morning of 12 June 1965 to see the first rough cuts of their film 'Help!' The press swarmed the studios following the news that the group were to be named Members of the Order of the British Empire, so they made time for a press conference. © University of Dundee John Lennon's battered suede jacket makes an impromptu appearance in the studio, late 1965. It would later find fame (albeit collar up) on the cover of the 'Rubber Soul' album. © University of Dundee Interview with The Beatles. © University of Dundee

All photographs © University of Dundee. Click on each thumbnail to see a larger version of the image.

This exhibition featured recently rediscovered photographs that had never been shown in Liverpool before, all of which were taken during the filming of The Beatles film 'Help!' in 1965.

The pictures show The Beatles off guard and behind the scenes at a time when most professional photographers only had access to them at carefully managed photo calls. Nobody knows how Peto secured such unfettered access to the most famous group in the world, but these photos provide a fascinating insight into The Beatles at work and off duty.

One of the great photo journalists of the 1960s, Michael Peto left 130,000 prints and negatives to the University of Dundee when he died in 1970. They were then archived and lay forgotten until their rediscovery in 2004.

Michael Peto

From Hungary to Britain

Michael Peto was born in Bata, Hungary in 1908 and went to live in Budapest in the 1930s. His work connected with the export of Hungarian craft products was instrumental in his reaching Britain.

During the war he lived in London where he worked for the Ministry of Labour and zealously backed the war effort. The personal secretary to Count M Karolyi, head of the New Democratic Hungary, much of his spare time was also devoted to planning the establishment of a socialist Hungary after their homeland's liberation. They did not foresee the postwar domination by the USSR. 

An award winning photographer

Peto taught himself photography, encouraged by his close friend, the Polish artist Josef Herman. In the early post-war years he took up photography as a career and in 1949 joined The Observer. Much of his work reflects his subsequent travels throughout Europe, the Middle and Far East and India. He was awarded a bronze medal by the International Organisation of Journalists at Interpress-Foto at their 1960 meeting held in Berlin and was awarded a further bronze medal at the Budapest International Exposition of Photographic Art in 1970. Major exhibitions have been held of his work.

Peto's major interest lay in the study of the human form in its natural surroundings and there is no doubt that he was one of the supreme masters of this aspect of photographic art.  Many famous figures from the worlds of politics, art and entertainment are featured in his pictures. The other major aspect of his work involved the arts in the 1950s and 1960s, especially the London ballet scene around the time of the arrival of Rudolf Nureyev.

He died on Christmas Day 1970, aged 62. The University of Dundee is a custodian and copyright owner of his entire photographic work.

Limited edition publication

A limited edition book featuring more than 250 rare and unpublished photographs of The Beatles by Michael Peto is available from Genesis Publications (made in collaboration with the University of Dundee).

The Beatles at National Museums Liverpool