Fiona Adams, Beatles Photographer, Dead at 84
Photographer Fiona Adams, best known for her pictures of classic rock icons including the Beatles, has died at the age of 84.
Adams’ death was confirmed by her son, Karl. The photographer reportedly passed on June 26 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Born in Guernsey, a small island in the English Channel, Adams left her hometown to study photography at the Ealing of School of Art. Her early work included architectural pictures, travel photographs and contributions to the Sunday Times newspaper.
While working for the London-based magazine Boyfriend in the early ‘60s, Adams career would reach a major turning point. The shutterbug was given the assignment of photographing an up-and-coming pop group called the Beatles.
Rather than doing a traditional studio shoot, Adams elected to capture the Fab Four among the ruins of a London bomb site. “Music was changing,” she later explained, “and I wanted to reflect this with a more dynamic, natural background.”
At the photographer’s direction, the young rockers jumped in the air. Doing so created one of the band’s most timeless images.
“I struggled down into the crater with my heavy camera case,” Adams recalled. “There was a pile of fallen bricks and detritus at the bottom. The boys did their bit and stood patiently – beautifully silhouetted against the sky and the buildings. I set up my camera and shouted: ‘One, two, three – jump!’ And they jumped – twice. Cuban heels and all.”
“I didn’t even think to check whether it was safe or not,” Adams would later admit to friend Lynne Ashton.
The band liked the pictures so much, they elected to use one for the cover of their Twist and Shout EP.
Adams would photograph the Beatles on many more occasions as the band elevated to worldwide superstardom. Though the group’s jumping image would remain the most iconic of her career, it was far from Adams’ only work with legendary artists.
The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix are among the vaunted rockers to appear in Adams’ material. Arguably the photographer’s most popular non-Beatles image was a 1965 picture of Bob Dylan, capturing the singer as he lounged with a cigarette at London’s Savoy Hotel.
Adams would later marry and have two children, focussing her time on family more than art.
In 2009, the National Portrait Gallery in England featured her work as part of an exhibition called Beatles to Bowie: The 60s Exposed. The exhibit referred to her Beatles picture as “one of the defining images of 20th-century culture,” while Adams was described as “an unsung heroine of the decade.”
See more examples of Adams work below.