Naked Lennon

Behind the camera: Annie Leibovitz
Where: Lennon’s New York bedroom
Photo Summary: John Lennon and Yoko Ono from cover of Rolling Stone Magazine
Picture Taken: Picture taken on December 8, 1980 for Rolling Stones magazine Cover 335, January 22, 1981

The cover of Rolling Stones Edition 335 (January 22, 1981) was the famous shot of a naked John Lennon clinging to a fully clothed Yoko Ono. It was taken just hours before John was killed by crazed fan Mark Chapman. In 2005 Yoko and Lennon’s cover of Rolling Stone was voted the best cover by a panel of magazine editors who reviewed the best covers in the past four decades.

Taking the Picture

The morning of Dec 8, 1980, Annie Leibovitz visited the New York apartment of John Lennon and Yoko Ono to do a photo shoot for Rolling Stones. Annie originally tried to just get a shot of Lennon without Yoko but Lennon insisted that she be on the cover too. Annie recalled that “nobody wanted her on the cover”. She then thought of trying to recreate the kissing scene from his album cover, Double Fantasy an image that moved Annie Leibovitz very much.

“What is interesting is she said she’d take her top off and I said, ‘Leave everything on’ — not really preconceiving the picture at all. Then he curled up next to her and it was very, very strong. You couldn’t help but feel that she was cold and he looked like he was clinging on to her. I shot some test Polaroids first,” Leibovitz wrote a month later in Rolling Stone, “and when I showed them to John and Yoko, John said, ‘You’ve captured our relationship exactly’. I looked him in the eye and we shook on it.”
Later that day Mark Chapman shot John as he was walking from his limo into his apartment.

Doctors at the hospital worked frantically to stabilize Lennon but he had lost too much blood and was pronounced dead.  Yoko Ono asked the hospital to keep it a secret so that Ono could tell their son before he saw it on the news but an ABC reporter just happened to be in the hospital for an injury and scooped the story.

When Annie Leibovitz heard that he had been shot she rushed to the hospital. She photographed the doctor announcing John’s death at the hospital.

The last photo of Lennon taken with Chapman in the background.  By Paul Goresh

The last photo of Lennon taken with Chapman in the background. By Paul Goresh

Annie Leibovitz

Leibovitz was one of six children, and was a “military brat”; her father was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, and family moved frequently when she was young. Leibovitz was influenced by her mother, a modern dance instructor.
In high school, she became interested in various artistic endeavours, and wrote and played music. She attended the San Francisco Art Institute. She became interested in photography after taking pictures on a trip to visit her family, who was then based in the Philippines. For several years, she continued to develop her photography skills while she worked various jobs, including a stint on a kibbutz in Israel for several months in 1969.
When Leibovitz returned to America in 1970, she became involved with Rolling Stone magazine, which had just launched a short time before. In 1973, publisher Jann Wenner named Leibovitz chief photographer of the magazine, and she remained with the magazine until 1983.
This photo is often quoted as being the last picture of John but the very, very last photograph was a snap taken by a fan, Paul Goresh, who happened to be standing outside the Dakota building at that moment when John agreed to sign an album for another fan, Mark Chapman, who turned out to be his assassin.

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By the Sword

Behind the camera: Yasushi Nagao
Where: Stage of Hibiya Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Photo Summary: Otoya Yamaguchi thrusting his sword into Socialist party leader, Inejiro Asanuma
Picture Taken: October 12, 1960

1960 saw great political turmoil in Japan as the ruling party, the LDP, tried to pass the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. The Japan Socialist Party tried in vain to stop the bill’s passage in the Diet even physically preventing LDP members from entering the parliament chamber before being removed by police. Failing to stop the bill the Socialists and their supporters took to the streets in sometimes violent protests that even forced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to cancel a planned trip to the country. Hoping to capitalize on the anger that the bill was passed on June 19 Socialist leader Inejiro Asanuma planned an American style televised rally for the upcoming Lower-house election. It was at this rally that an ultra-nationalist member Otoya Yamaguchi rushed the stage and twice plunged a samurai blade into Asanuma’s stomach. The picture captured by Mainichi photographer Yasushi Nagao was published around the world and eventually went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for photography the first time someone from Japan had won the award. With the award, Nagao was able to travel freely around the world, something that was difficult for Japanese citizens at the time. He died of natural causes on May 2, 2009.

Taking the photo

Yasushi Nagao was one of thirty-six photographers that worked for the daily Japanese newspaper, Mainichi. On that day he was assigned to cover the election debate at Hibiya Hall. Before he entered the Hall he slipped a twelve-exposure film pack into his 4×5 Speed Graphic camera. As Asanuma started his speech right-wing hecklers started throwing objects at the stage while shouting, “Shut up, Communist” and “Banzai the U.S.A.”
As police moved in to remove the hecklers most of the press covering the event followed them in hopes of getting some good crowd shots. Nagao chose to stay at the stage. The young Yamaguchi dressed in his high school uniform slipped past the police and ran onto the stage. Out of the corner of his eye saw Yamaguchi jump on stage and Nagao by instinct changed the focus from 10 to 15 feet. He initially thought that the boy “was carrying a brown stick to strike Asanuma.” Running full speed across the stage the young assassin slammed the blade deep in the belly of Asanuma, the impact forced the two to spin apart. Nagao had waited until this point as the impact had pushed Yamaguchi and Asanuma out from behind the podium. Nagao snapped the moment as Yamaguchi prepared to thrust his blade a second time into Asanuma’s belly. The photo was his last unexposed negative.
Realizing that he had a great image Nagao rushed his roll of film to the Mainichi building. By agreement, UPI had exclusive rights to all Mainichi news pictures and they radio-photoed Nagao’s image back to the States where it was published in numerous newspapers and magazines including the October 24, 1960 issue of LIFE magazine. The image won every photo award in America including the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1961.

The assassin

Colourized by Ömercolorize

17-year-old Otoya Yamaguchi was a member of an ultra-right-wing nationalist group. His father, Shimpei Yamaguchi, was a colonel in the Japanese Self-Defense force. Even though Shimpei Yamaguchi was forced to resign his commission he defended his boy saying: “A rightist is better than a leftist.”. When Otoya was arrested police records record that he expressed regret that he was only able to kill Asanuma. He had planned to kill three people: Communist member Sanzo Nosaka, Japan Teachers’ Union Chairman Takeshi Kobayashi as well as Asanuma. The sword he used is called a wakizashi which is a small blade that the samurai used to wear. It was found by Otoya in the bottom of his father’s closet a week before the assassination.

On November 2nd, while in a juvenile detention center, Otoya used toothpaste to write a message on his wall: “Seven lives for my country. Ten thousand years for His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!”. He then tore his bedsheet into strips which he used to make a rope to hang himself in a Japanese ritual called owabi. Owabi is a samurai tradition in which one commits suicide to apologize to those inconvenienced by Asanuma killing.

Inejiro Asanuma

The 225 lbs (102 kg) politician was the left-wing leader of the Japanese Socialist Party. He often enraged the Japanese conservatives by publicly supporting communist China. In 1959 he visited Red China and even went so far to say, “the United States is the common enemy of the Japanese and Chinese peoples.” To prevent the passage of the Japanese American mutual defense pact Asanuma organized large snake-dancing demonstrations that eventually prevented President Eisenhower from visiting the country. After his assassination, the Socialist party paraded his widow in hopes of generating sympathy votes from the Japanese public. Even with the support after Asanuma’s murder during the November 20, 1960 election the LDJ won with 296 seats compared to 145 seats of Socialist party down from 166 seats they held during the 1958 election.

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SAS assault on the Iranian Embassy

Behind the camera: BBC footage Screen Capture
Where: Iranian Embassy – 16 Princes Gate, South Kensington, London, United Kingdom
Photo Summary: John ‘Mac’ McAleese leading SAS Team 1 into the building
Picture Taken: May 5, 1980

The Siege of the Iranian Embassy, located at 16 Princes Gate London, began at 1130 AM on April 30th, 1980. The Siege lasted six days and was eventually concluded after a daring raid by the British Special Air Service (SAS). Five of the six armed Iranian terrorists were killed, and 19 of the 26 hostages were saved.

Terrorists take the Embassy

At 11:30 a.m. on 30 April 1980, six armed revolutionaries of the Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan (DRMLA) burst into the Iranian Embassy at No. 16 Princes Gate, London firing weapons and taking twenty-six hostages. The police constable on guard outside the Embassy, Trevor Lock, was on duty was taken captive. In addition to the other 23 hostages, 2 BBC employees, journalist Chris Cramer and sound man Sim Harris were also taken as hostages while they were applying for visas.
The Terrorists came well armed with a small arsenal, including SMG and Browning 9mm pistols (loaded with hollow-point ammunition), a .38 revolver, and Russian-made hand grenades. They were protesting against oppression by Ayatollah Khomeini who had come to power in Iran during the previous year. Their demands were as follows:

One: we demand our human and legitimate rights. Two: we demand freedom, autonomy and recognition of the Arabistan people. Three: we demand the release of ninety-one Arab prisoners in Arabistan. [Then came the threat] If all the demands are not met by noon on Thursday, May 1, the Embassy and all the hostages will be blown up.

In addition to this, they demanded a plane to fly them out of British airspace.
Negotiations continued into the third day and deadlines came and went, Oan, the 27-year-old leader of the terrorists codenamed “Salim” (real name: Awn Ali Mohammed), became increasingly irritated with his lack of progress. Such was his obvious agitation, that authorities decided to agree to his request to the broadcast of his demands on national television. This seemingly promising step backfired, however, when the BBC incorrectly reported portions of his statement. Instead of pacifying him, this mistake further enraged the terrorist leader, and he vowed that the British hostages would now be the last to be released. At this point, the police decided to intervene. They transcribed Oan’s new demands verbatim as they were shouted from a first-floor window. This positive development prompted Oan to release two hostages, in return for a promise from authorities that the statement would be read promptly on the BBC TV News.
Any hope for a peaceful resolution to the siege ended at 1:45 p.m. on 05 May when Oan shot and killed Abbas Lavasani, the Iranian press attache and dropped his body out of a door to the Embassy. Upon hearing this news, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gave permission for the SAS to take the building.

Storming the Embassy: Operation NIMROD

Unbeknownst to the terrorists at any time, PC Trevor Lock had managed, during his capture, to activate an alert device concealed on his jacket lapel. The signal was forwarded to the Metropolitan Police’s C13 Anti-terrorist Squad who dispatched to the area around the Embassy and were joined shortly thereafter by members of C7, Scotland Yard’s electronic eavesdropping and surveillance branch. Sniper and counter-sniper positions were also manned by police sharpshooters.
While these events took place, at the headquarters of the 22 Special Air Service Regiment located at Hereford, a call was received by a former member of the unit’s “D Squadron” who at the time was working as a dog handler for the Metropolitan police. Receiving the call and a brief assessment of the situation through the grassroots intelligence network comprised of such former SAS operators gave the units Special Projects (SP) team of the SAS counter-revolutionary warfare ring a valuable “heads up” and they were able to immediately scramble the necessary personnel.

The members of B squadrons “Pagoda Troop”, the alert team always kept on standby within the SAS specifically for these types of situations, were going through standard Close Quarter Battle (CQB) drills within the Hereford “Kill House” when all their pagers went off simultaneously with the “999” code signalling that this was a real-life event, not a training exercise. They mobilized and were set up at a barracks in Regents Park London and had two-man teams conducting clandestine surveillance of the embassy, even going on to the roof, that very same night.
To mask efforts at surveillance and the storming of the building, all aircraft landing and taking off from Heathrow airport in London were ordered to fly considerably lower over the Embassy. In addition to this, jackhammers were used outside the embassy to mask the sound of drilling on walls for C7 specialists to plant various listening devices and fibre optic probes necessary for the SAS to ascertain exactly what rooms the terrorists were in.
After briefly questioning a janitor that worked in the embassy, it became clear that the initial tools for going through windows into a structure ie. a sledgehammer would not work due to the heavy, bulletproof glass used in the construction of the embassy. It was determined that specially shaped explosive charges should be employed.

The equipment used by the SAS operators for this assault contained Bristol body armour, Heckler & Koch MP5s, Browning High Power Pistols, lightweight Northern Ireland boots (good for running and kicking in doors), S6 respirators (so they could breathe through the CS gas) and an NBC suit, to be worn under the body armour. The clothing was designed to provoke a psychological response within the terrorists when confronted by this totally black, barely human figure the fraction of a second gained could be the difference between life and death.
The SAS had debriefed two hostages that had been released and had been told that the Terrorists had grenades, even some had them in their pockets. This resulted in a decision being made to “go in hard and hot” and eliminate anyone identified as a terrorist with extreme prejudice.
The assault started at 19:23 hours on 5 May 1980 23 minutes after the dead hostage had been thrown from the building. An explosive charge went off at the rear of the building shattering the skylight, raining glass and debris down and effectively stunning anyone in the second-floor stairwell. All power to the building was also cut at this time and the teams moved forward with the assault. A second explosive charge went off almost instantly, shattering the rear doors of the embassy. Five teams then took part in the assault.

Team 1- Using explosive charges on the windows this team entered on the first floor via the balcony. This is the image captured by ITN Cameras.
Team 2- Entered the first floor and clear the basement.
Team 3- Entered the first floor and clear the first floor also acted as a hostage collection point.
Team 4- Abseiled through the shattered skylight onto the second floor.
Team 5- Abseiled from the roof to the rear Balcony and entered there to aid in the clearing of the second floor.

Within 11 minutes 5 of the 6 terrorists were dead and 19 hostages were rescued.

The Picture


The lead man in the iconic image is John “Mac” McAleese, now 61 years old, is the SAS operator placing the charge on the window just before breaching and leading Team 1 through the windows onto the first floor. In the photo, the SAS can be seen carrying their HKMP5’s and wearing the dull black Bristol body armour and other kit. The image is part of a video seen by millions of people and was broadcast live during the Siege.
Aftermath and Controversy

Not for the last time, the tactics of the SAS were considered by many to be excessive, in particular, the deaths of two terrorists Shai and Makki. These men were, according to the hostages, shot as they lay unarmed and surrendering still within the Embassy. Denis Thatcher, the husband of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was quoted as saying “You let one of the bastards live.” However, the raid has been considered an incredible success and is often referred to as a textbook case of both counterterrorism and the employment of the special forces.

Recent Activity

Since 2009 the image has seen a resurgence in the media. Paul McAleese, son of siege hero and the lead man in the siege image John McAleese, was killed in Afghanistan on August 20th, 2009. His father John has spoken out regarding the insufficient levels of troop strength on the ground in Afghanistan.

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