Q: Your book actually begins with your return trip to Rishikesh
in 2000. With so many memories attached to the place, was it difficult
to see the town and, especially, the ashram again?
It wasnt difficult, at all. It was delightful: To be back
in such a gorgeous place, geographically, and a place of such happy
memories for me. For anyone going to India, a visit to Rishikesh
is very worth it.
Q: How have Rishikesh, and the ashram itself, changed since
Rishikesh has grown as a town and, to a small extent, there are
more tourist shops, especially leading to the river crossing that
I took to get to the ashram. There are all the signs of the 2000s:
Internet cafes, river rafting companies and many more travel agents.
Q: Before reading your book, people might have the impression
that you went to Rishikesh with the intent of photographing the
Beatles, perhaps for a magazine or newspaper. In fact, it was a
coincidence that you ended up in Rishikesh at the same time as the
Beatles. What brought you there in the first place?
woke up one morning in Montreal, where I was working for the National
Film Board of Canada, and I had a strange thought: That there were
parts of myself that I didnt like. I asked myself, out loud,
So, what do I do? and in the silence that followed I
heard a calm, deep, inner voice say,
Well, if you want to look at yourself more clearly you might
want to get away from the environment you grew up in. And
I asked, So where do I go? and this same, inner-guidance-
system-voice said, India.
That was the motivation for going to India. Once there, I worked
on a film to cover the costs of my air ticket. After 6 weeks on
the road, filming, I got to New Delhi and excitedly opened my first
letter from my girlfriend, back home. I only remember the first
sentence: Dear Paul, Ive moved in with Henry.
I was devastated. Someone suggested I try meditation for the heartbreak.
Thats what led me to the Maharishis ashram in Rishikesh.
I didnt know the Beatles would be there. At first it was
not good news. It was bad news. I couldnt get into the ashram.
It was closed to all press and visitors. But after waiting outside
the gates for 8 days, I got in, learned meditationwhich was
a miracle of relief from the heartbreakand met John, Paul,
George and Ringo. Also Donovan, Mia Farrow, Mike Love, Cynthia Lennon,
Patti Boyd Harrison, Maureen Starkey and Jane Asher.
Q: What was your first meeting with the Beatles like?
I was walking through the ashram, just looking around, not even
thinking of them, and I saw them sitting at a long table by the
edge of the cliff overlooking the Ganges River, below. I walked
over, noticing my heart beating faster as I got closer. They were
chatting and I waited at the end of the table. When they realized
someone was standing there, they paused in their conversation and
John, sitting right next to me, looked up. I said, May I join
you? He smiled and said, Sure, mate, pull up a chair.
Paul turned towards me and added, Come and sit here.
And pulled a chair to the table, next to him.
Q: Did it take a while to penetrate their inner circle
or did they welcome you from the start?
It happened very quickly. After a moment, they finished their conversation
and John turned to me. So, youre American, then?
he asked. No, Canadian. I responded. He turned to the
group and in his dry and playful wit announced, Ah! Hes
from one of the colonies! Everyone broke up, me included.
The laughter continued, as I quipped back, Actually, not
any more. At which point Paul and Ringo started teasing me
about still having the Queen on our money. I came back with, Well,
we may have the Queen on our money but, hey, she lives with you
guys! and everyone broke up again. The banter and the laughter
continued for several more moments and, as it trailed off, John
turned to the others again and with his same dry, teasing wit said,
Ah! You see! They still have a sense of humor in the colonies!
And with a final crest of laughter, I was taken into their small
band of seekers.
Q: Looking at your photos in the book, I was struck by one series
where at first you are photographing them at a distance through
a fence, and then you gradually get closer and closer. Did you feel
intimidated photographing them at first and did they ever give you
a hard time about it?
I didnt feel intimidated and they didnt give me a hard
time. I had already noticed that, as we sat around, George and Patti
had a camera, as did Mal Evans, their roadie, and Ringo.
They would take snap shots of those of us around the table, casually,
like any family outing. Over the next day I asked each of John,
Paul, George and Ringo, individually, if they minding my taking
No problem. they each said.
Q: One of my favorite passages in your book describes the time
you spent one on one with George Harrison in his bungalow as he
played the sitar and discussed spirituality and meditation with
you. What are some of your impressions of him as a person?
Interestingly, when we were all sitting around, George was the
quietest of the group. But, one-on-one he was so dear-hearted, open,
intimate, sharing and as interested in knowing me as I was in knowing
him. He was a humble and humorous. As we sat together, he was 24
years old, yet infused with a spiritual and emotional wisdom far
beyond his years.
The public perception of John Lennon ranges anywhere from a crusader
for peace to a sarcastic, caustic person. Having spent time with
him, how would you describe him?
In the week I spent with John, he was kind, friendly and playful.
When we sat alone together, he was generous and sharing of himself,
on an intimate level. There were no signs of a caustic or sarcastic
person. His humor was beautifully tart, though.
Q: It sounds like you spent a good deal of your time at the
ashram with the Beatles. How well did you get to know some of the
other celebrities like Mike Love, Donovan or Mia Farrow?
I got to know Donovan better than Mike or Mia. Mia wasnt
around much in those days and Mike wasnt very friendly with
Q: There were many other people at the ashram at that time besides
the Beatles. Did you get the feeling that most were there because
they were genuinely searching for something or were there some who
were there, celebrities or otherwise, because it was the thing
to do at that time?
I didnt get the feeling from anyone there that they were
there for any reason other than a genuine desire to learn and grow,
on a personal and spiritual level.
Q: What was your impression of the Maharishi? He has had his
critics and defenders over the years, but given your personal experience
with him, did he seem more like a spiritual leader, businessman,
didnt have any personal contact with the Maharishi, really.
While I was waiting outside the gates he would come out every afternoon
and give a press conference for the many radio, television and print
journalists who came from all over the world. I got to know his
public response to their questions. In the week I spent inside the
ashram I sat in on some of the evening lectures he gave to the 60
or so people there to become teachers of meditation.
On the second or third day I was in the ashram, as I finished meditating,
Raghvendra came and said it was time for me to meet the Maharishi.
I followed him out into the intense Indian sun and walked to the
Maharishi's whitewashed bungalow. His house sat in a grove of trees
at the edge of the cliff. We walked up the stone path, crossing
the well-kept lawn between two small fountains, past flowerbeds
filled with yellow and orange marigolds. Several steps led up to
a wide porch where we left our sandals. We entered a small, bright
meditation room, separate from his private quarters, in back. There
was a low dais for the Maharishi and the floor was covered with
We sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the dais and waited.
A few minutes later, voices approached from outside. The door swung
open and, after removing their shoes and sandals, John, Paul, Ringo,
George, Cynthia, Patti, Maureen, and Jane all came in.
"Hi, Paul, how are you?" asked Ringo.
"Excellent," I said.
"That's what happens here," said George, smiling, as
we all sat cross-legged on the floor.
After a moment the Maharishi came in from his room and sat on the
dais. He put his palms together and said, "Namaste." with
a giggle of joy. We returned the greeting. After some general words
of welcome, hoping we were all getting along well, he asked George
about the small black tape recorder he'd brought with him. "Is
it a new song, George, or shall I recite the Vedas?" the Maharishi
giggled again. "A new song," George answered, "I
just recorded it in Bombay last month."
George pressed the play button and began to sing along with his
recorded voice and music, smiling shyly like a new father as his
song, The Inner Light, filled the room. The Maharishi, rolling his
prayer beads between his fingers, laughed approvingly.
The Maharishi never did notice me but I didnt mind at all.
Sitting right beside George, listening to him sing, I felt blessed.
Q: Have you had any contact with the Beatles or the Maharishi
Last summer, Ringo let me know through his friend, band leader
and record producer, Mark Hudson, that he would like one of my photos:
The one where hes wearing his gold Nehru jacket, titled, To
The Nines. My wife, Patricia, and I met Ringo in a rehearsal
studio in Manhattan and I presented him with the photograph. He
was very dear, friendly, fit and full of fun.
Q: In your book, you describe being present as they worked on
songs that would later appear on albums like the White Album and
others. Do you still feel a special connection to those particular
songs or has that subsided over time? Has it grown over time?
I certainly feel a special connection to all the songs on the White
Album that were written in India. At the same time, I love all of
their music and that connection has grown over time.
Q: Why did it take so long to tell your
story, and what made you decide to produce the gorgeous Limited
Edition books youve now published?
I got home from India, I was so blown-away by the magical tool of
meditation that I wanted to tell others about it. I was also broke
and needed to make some money. So, I wrote one magazine article
in Canada about meditation and my experiences meeting the Beatles.
I used a few pictures and then felt I didnt want to do anything
else with them. I put the pictures away and literally forgot about
themout of sight, out of mind.
My daughter reminded me of them 30 years later and I did a first
book in 2000. For many reasons, including using new photos and new
text, including a wonderful Foreword by Donovan, and a beautiful
Preface by Tim B. Wride, a celebrated museum curator of photography,
as well as using the finest methods to print the pictures as beautifully
as they could be done, we decided to do a top-quality, Limited Edition
book, The Beatles In India. We decided to self-publish,
even though we had offers from publishers, to give us the freedom
to create it as beautifully and with the best fabrics we could find.
The Super-Deluxe version is limited to 350 copies and comes with
a museum quality Limited Edition 11x14 photograph as well
as an original CD and an original DVD. The Special version is limited
to 1968 copies and comes with the CD and the DVD. The CD is exquisite:
11 Beatles songs done instrumentally on Indian sitar and other complementary
instruments. The DVD is 90 minutes of material with myself introducing
the photos, a slide show, a gallery section, and so on.
Q: Besides meeting the Beatles and other celebrities, what else
from that experience has stayed with you?
So much has stayed with me, beyond the Beatles and others I met.
I still meditate, though with a different and much more powerful
technique. And George truly changed my life when he said, while
talking about life, Like, were the Beatles after all,
arent we? We have all the money you could ever dream of. We
have all the fame you could ever wish for. But, it isn't love. It
isn't health. It isn't peace inside. Is it? His words have
stayed with me and help me to maintain perspective to this day.
Q: I know that in the past few years, you have once again crossed
paths with Donovan. Did the two of you have a chance to reminisce
about the experience in Rishikesh and do you keep in touch now?
Yes, Donovan and I are friends now and we have talked about Rishikesh;
and, yes, we keep in touch.
Q: In addition to your book, your photos have been widely exhibited,
including recent shows in Liverpool, Paris and Milan. What has the
reception been like?
The response to the photos has been just wonderful. People often
come into the gallery and walk around looking at the Collection
with a big smile on their faces. And if they know that I took the
pictures, they often come over and share how the Beatles also impacted
their lives, and the joy they still feel when they listen to the
Q: At your photo exhibits and other public appearances, do the
crowds tend to be those who were around during that time or have
you also noticed many younger Beatles fans as well?
To me, its great to see many, many younger Beatles fansfrom
10 years, up. In fact, Id say we see folks from 10 to 80 years
old with many at either end of that spectrum.
Q: In addition to your Beatles-related projects, you are also
a filmmaker. What are some of your recent projects?
Right now I am preparing several projects for filming. Between
1975 and 1980 I did a documentary series of 26 shows in 22 countries,
focusing on creativity in young people and the passing down of creative
traditions from one generation to the next in different cultures.
Each film focused on one teenager: From a 16 year-old Chinese gymnast
in Shanghai to a 13 year-old photographer in Florida. I am now looking
for the funding to go back and film each teenager, now adults, to
explore how their creativity, their lives and their cultures have
Q: I know you recently had an opportunity to meet Astrid Kirchherr,
famous for her friendship with and photographs of the Beatles. Can
you tell us about that experience?
Meeting Astrid was a real treat for me. I have admired her work
for many years. We met at a Beatles festival in Berlin 3 years ago.
We shook hands and I said, Im honored to meet you. I
love your photographs of the Beatles. She smiled very sweetly
and said, I love your photographs, too. I was a bit
shocked. She laughed and said, Why does that surprise you?
and I said, I didnt know you had seen them. She
responded, Oh, Ive seen your pictures and I think theyre
wonderful. We continued to talk and she was most lovely, gracious
Out of respect, I offered her a gift of any of my photos, as many
as she wanted. She said her favorite room in her home is her kitchen,
and she keeps her favorite things there. She asked for the close-up
photo of George, titled, George1968 in a modest
size. I was very touched and delighted for her to take it home and
put it up in her favorite room.
Thinking back, did it ever occur to you while you were having this
experience in Rishikesh that more than 35 years later, that event
would still be so much a part of your life?
The cool thing is that meeting the Beatles was such serendipity.
And, that soon after meeting them I stopped thinking of them as
the Beatles and truly saw each of them as individuals.
Because of this I was experiencing my time at the ashram in
the moment and never thought of the experience from the outside.
So, no, it never occurred to me at the time to actually think
of what was happening, rather, I was just experiencing it.
Q: I have seen your photos displayed in person and they are
stunning, especially the larger prints where the subjects appear
larger than life. They are printed using the giclée process.
Can you tell us what that is?
Yes, the giclée is a high-quality, archival ink-jet process
that gives the image a painterly feeling. It is made
using a very expensive printer with 360 microscopic ink jets on
one mechanical arm. It makes 5 passes, using 8 colors and, in a
sense, is like painting the photograph in layers of high quality,
We also print small sized editions as Dye-Coupler, or Chromagenic,
prints, which are more directed to the serious photographic collectors.
Q: Do you have any upcoming exhibits or public appearances planned?
Thanks for asking. Yes, we will be at the Fest For Beatles Fans
in New Jersey, the weekend of March 31 - April 2,
2006. From there I open a gallery show in Argentina in the first
week of April. At the beginning of May Ill be lecturing on
The Beatles in India at the University of Oklahoma,
Music Faculty; the on Memorial Day Weekend well be at Abbey
Road on The River in Louisville, Kentucky.
In July we have a show on Long Island and in August well
be at the Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago, followed by taking our
show to Beatles Week in Liverpool. Then in September, we have the
Beatles Convention in Toronto.