Robert Whitaker (13 November 1939 – 20 September 2011) was a renowned British photographer. Best known internationally for his many photographs of The Beatles, taken between 1964 and 1966. And for his photographs of the rock group Cream. Which were used in the Martin Sharp-designed collage on the cover of their 1967 LP Disraeli Gears.
Whitaker was running a freelance penthouse photo studio in Flinders Street, Melbourne. He had his fateful meeting with The Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein, during the group’s June 1964 Australasian tour. This came about more or less by accident. Whitaker accompanied a journalist friend to an interview with Epstein for an article for the Melbourne Jewish News. Whitaker’s picture was published with the article. Which led to his introduction to Epstein and his first shots of the Beatles—pictures of Paul McCartney and George Harrison each holding up boomerangs presented to them by Australian fans.
“I photographed Epstein, saw he was a bit of a peacock and a cavalier. So I put peacock feathers around his head in photographic relief. He was knocked out when he saw the picture. After that, he saw an exhibition of collages I had at the Museum of Modern Art. He then immediately offered me the position of staff photographer at NEMS, photographing all his artists. I initially turned it down, but after seeing The Beatles perform at Festival Hall I was overwhelmed by all the screaming fans and I decided to accept the offer to return to England “.
Whitaker accepted the job three months later. But before he left he spent one final Sunday at the Aspendale beach house of his friends Georges and Mirka Mora. Taking a set of historic pictures which were exhibited for the first time in the Monash Gallery of Art’s 2003 exhibition of his work. In one photograph, “Aspendale Beach”, the Mora family – Georges, Mirka and their sons Philippe, William and Tiriel – are pictured in slouched, single file on the beach with Martin Sharp and architect Peter Burns. In another photograph, “Goodbye Bob”, the same group sits holding a sign which reads: “GOD bless thee and keep thee … ASPENDALE 1964”.