There aren’t many people that can say they watched their work being appreciated the way Mike Mitchell did last week. His rare images of the Beatles taken during the group’s Washington Coliseum concert in February, 1964, were the big attraction July 20 at “The Beatles Illuminated: The Discovered Works of Mike Mitchell,” a much-publicized auction of the photos by Christie’s auction house.
And for Mitchell, it was a huge success with 46 photos selling for $361,938 (including buyer’s premium).
” I was blown away,” he told us in a phone interview. “I didn’t really let myself have any expectations. I wasn’t having any kind of big fantasies or anything like that because you have no idea what’s going to happen. But by the time we got to the last lot, I was feeling pretty wonderful.”
Mitchell said he sat in the front row and taped the event. “I was watching it from two different perspectives — as a really enthralled, entranced member of the audience, but also as a beneficiary of the efforts involved. From both perspectives, it was really thrilling. I’m sure it’ll be one of the most major memories of my life.”
He said things began looking really good early on. “The one of the drumset was the first one to go to five figures,” he said. “And there was sort of a rumble in the room, an approving rumble in the room when that happened. And that was a kind of a change of momentum in the auction.”
Additionally, he said, “There was one of McCartney and Lennon that went way more than I expected it to go for.”
There were other interesting moments in the auction as well.
“(There was) a shot of McCartney sort of in profile and screaming his head off with a microphone and there’s a star coming up and then the microphone. And Lennon’s kind of looking over his shoulder at him in the background. That started sort of low somewhere, then BOOM!, it jumped up. I don’t know the specifics, but it jumped from $2,000 somewhere to $5,000, $7,500. And that was pretty cool. And that happened on a couple of pictures.”
Mitchell says plans for a book of the pictures are on hold for the time being, though he says, at some point, “we’ll have some kind of long term project.”
It just so happened that our conversation took place while he was back at the actual site of the Beatles’ Washington Coliseum concert 47 years ago with a couple of friends. He described the building as “falling apart,” but says it’s still in use — as a parking garage. “It’s got these big louvered doors on it that go up and people drive cars into this parking lot.”
But, he says, “I don’t think it’s going to stay like this forever. My feeling has always been it would make an incredible Beatles museum.”
- INTERVIEW: Photog restores treasured Beatles pics for upcoming auction (Part 1)
- INTERVIEW: Photog restores treasured Beatles pics for upcoming auction (Part 2)
- Unseen Beatles photos sell huge at auction
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