Long after their 1960s heyday The Beatles remain an iconic band; 50 years after the release of their ground-breaking album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, photographer Dean Chalkley has made a series of images inspired by it.
“For many critics, it’s claimed to be the best album ever made and the most important album ever made,” says the photographer. “I’ve heard the songs from that album many times, but have I actually sat down and listened to the album? I’ve heard the album but have I listened to it?”
Putting it on repeat on the way to the Rencontres d’Arles, he had the idea of commemorating its anniversary with an installation, including a short film made with his old friend Ciaran O’Shea, creative director of studio Discordo. The result, Reverberation, goes on show at The Book Club on 07 September, and it’s far from a slavish tribute.
“[The exhibition is] acknowledging the fact that the album had many different revolutionary techniques applied to it. Without that album many of the things that happen in music today wouldn’t be there, like cutting up and sampling. The Beatles did it for the first time,” says Chalkley.
He adds that neither he nor O’Shea wanted to slavishly follow The Beatles’ blueprint though – taking the music as a spark “we took it to a different place with these photographs”. “Sometimes it’s like a treasure hunt for most people, to look at one of these photographs and say ‘Right, what were they referring to in that picture?’” says Chalkley.
“It’s actually quite expansive in its remit and approach,” he continues. “What will be presented in the exhibition will be some straight photography, through to collage and to prose, which has been cut up and presented in an unusual way. We didn’t really have any restrictions and that’s how it should be really.
“The Beatles were inspired by different things on that album: it was created out of everyday things and everyday notions, even though people view it as a psychedelic masterpiece…When you look at the exhibition and walk around it, I think diversity is something you really get out of it.
“It’s not an exhibition where everything looks the same. People can see that we’ve layered and hand cut out things with a scalpel and we’ve kept an element of rawness in there as well,” he says. “Not everything has the same aesthetic approach. Why should it? We’re multifaceted people and we all have different interests and approaches so why should we tie ourself up when it comes to our art?”
Reverberation, by Dean Chalkley and Ciaran O’Shea, launches at The Book Club, Shoreditch, on 7 September and runs until 5 November. https://www.wearetbc.com/visual-art/reverberation/
A limited edition book featuring images from the show is also available through Y Junction, £25.