This Scottish photographer shot the photo that became the cover of the Beatles album Abbey Road today in 1969, which has become the most famous album cover photograph in history. Now WE know em


Iain Stewart Macmillan was born October 20, 1938 in Dundee,Scotland.

He moved to London in 1958 to study photography at Regent Street Polytechnic.

Macmillan’s first photography gig was as a cruise photographer for the 1959 season.

Then he returned to Dundee, Scotland to photograph street scenes.

Iain’s street work resulted in The Sunday Times and the Illustrated London News commissioning him as a photographer in the early 1960s.

By the mid-1960s, Iain began working on a Photograph Exhibition for “The Sculpture of David Wynne”.

Then in 1966, Macmillan photographed a book he published under the title of “The Book of London.”

In this book, there is a photo on page 181 presenting a demonstration with the heading of “Handkercheif Piece.” In this photo is one Yoko Ono. The photo shows Yoko and three others wearing handkerchiefs tied over their mouths.

Soon after, Yoko invited Iain to photograph her exhibit November 9, 1966 at Indica Gallery in St. James, London. At this event Yoko met John Lennon.

Soon, Yoko introduced Iain Macmillan to John Lennon, and the rest as they say is history.

Abbey Road

In 1969, John Lennon invited Iain to photograph an album cover for the Beatles.

The Beatles recorded most of their music at EMI Studios on Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood, London. They had decided to name their last album after Abbey Road.

Iain was given a sketch by Paul McCartney a couple of days before the shoot showing where and what the picture should look like.

Iain then added his own sketch in the top corner to confirm the layout.

As for the Volkswagen?

Later, Iain said

“The car just happened to be standing there. It had been left there by someone on holiday. Nobody with any connection to The Beatles. A policeman hired to control traffic tried to move it away for us, but he couldn’t.”

The Beatles usually came to the studio around 2-3 pm so an earlier hour was chosen to avoid as many fans as possible.

The zebra crossing with EMI studios in the background in 1969.

The zebra crossing with EMI studios in the background in 1969.

So, on August 8, 1969 around 11:30 am London time, Iain Macmillan climbed up a stepladder about 10 feet in the air in the middle of Abbey Road overlooking a zebra crossing and took six pictures of the Beatles crossing the street over the next 10 minutes.

Iain then is quoted to have said “Everybody back inside.”


Iain Macmillan’s six-frame series, in the order the photos were taken

Iain Macmillan’s six-frame series, in the order the photos were taken

First Photo. John leads the group from left to right followed by Ringo, Paul and George. They kept this order throughout all the photos. There is a Mercedes pulling out of the studio behind them. John is looking away from the camera and Paul and George are in mid step. Paul is wearing sandals.

Second Photo. They walk back in the same order. Good spacing but only John has a full step.

Third Photo. Left to right again, full steps this time but they are all too far left. There is now a traffic backup. There is a taxi, two vans and a double decker bus waiting to come forward. Paul is now barefoot.

Fourth Photo. Walking right to left, once again Paul Ringo and George all in mid step. The traffic has gone through but the bus has stopped to watch. This photo is the cover of Abbey Road by Brian Southall.

Fifth Photo. Paul McCartney chooses frame 5 as the keeper. This photo was used for the cover of the album and is the only photo where we see Paul smoking. The only one with their legs in perfect formation. The three men on the left above Paul’s head are Alan Flanagan, Steve Millwood and Derek Seagrove. They were interior decorators returning from a lunch break. On the right side between John and Ringo’s head is Paul Cole an American tourist unaware he had been photographed until he saw the album cover months later.

Sixth Photo. Ringo slightly too far behind John.

After the shoot Iain went to find a road sign for use on the back cover. It was taken on the corner with Alexandra Road. During photographing the sign a girl in a blue dress walked through the shot. Iain was angry but later it was chosen as the back cover. The wall with the sign was demolished several years later.

After the album was released, the VW number plate (LMW 281F) was stolen repeatedly from the car.

In 1986, the actual VW was sold at auction for £2,530 and in 2001 went on display in a museum in Germany.

The image of the Beatles on the crossing has become one of the most famous and imitated in recording history. The crossing is a popular destination for Beatles fans and there is actually a live webcam featuring it.

In December 2010, the crossing was given grade II listed status for its “cultural and historical importance”; the Abbey Road studios (formerly EMI) has also been given similar status.

In 2013, Kolkata Police, launched a traffic safety awareness advertisement, using the cover and having a caption, “If they can, why can’t you?”.

Iain continued to work with John Lennon and Yoko for several years, even staying for a while at their home in New York.

In 1980, Iain took the cover photo for the album “Hinge and Bracket at Abbey Road” which was a parody of the Beatles photo.

In the 1980s, his work was on exhibit in the US, Britain and Europe.

The BBC used some of his photos in the series “The Rock and Roll Years”.

After the death of his mother Iain moved back to Carnoustie, Scotland.

On July 22, 1993 Iain photographed Paul McCartney at Abbey Road on the zebra crossing, this time with only an Old English Sheepdog.

The shot was used on the cover of Paul is Live album.

Then, on May 8, 2006 at the age of 67, Iain Macmillan died of lung cancer.

Now WE know em



Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s