At the same time that it has been announced that George Harrison’s first electric guitar, a Hofner Club 40, will be auctioned, a “new” photo of him playing it (above, main photo) has emerged, and is circulating social media. The problem is that none of the Beatles experts of my acquaintance have seen this photo before, or know where it comes from. It would be easy to cry “Photoshop!” without evidence. Equally, it would be easy to say, “Well, it LOOKS photoshopped”, but that isn’t good enough for two determined Beatles’ investigators such as experienced Beatles’ sleuth, Peter Hodgson, and yours truly. We quickly came to the conclusion that it IS photoshopped, but we wanted to know more.
DISCLAIMER: Neither Mr. Hodgson nor I intend to accuse either the creator of the work, or the original poster (who apparently took a photo of photo in a frame – hence the glare on the left-hand side of the picture), or anyone who has used this photo in good faith, of intention to deceive the public, we merely wish to trace the origin of the photo.
The background photo can be quickly discounted. I think it could come from a private collection, and possibly isn’t even available on the internet. It is of the same period, given the style of dress of the woman. George’s tie is interesting as it is the same one he wore in the famous photo at the wedding of his brother, Harry, on 20th December 1958 at Childwall Abbey Hotel, knotted in the same way, with the stripes in the same place and direction. If it were genuine, could it be another photo taken at the same event? No, because George was using his Hofner President at the wedding, and this new photo features the Club 40, which he didn’t acquire until the following year.
This is an elaborate work, and the photo of George has been created using many distinct images, including the shirt and tie, which have appeared in at least one other photo, the one taken at Blacklers’ Christmas Dance (where George worked) with his friend, Arthur Kelly. Therefore, assuming the tie and the guitar were photoshopped in, the most difficult part to trace is the face. Could I find another photo with the same pose? Well, not exactly, but after a long search, I’m sure it comes – believe it or not – from this photo, believed to be taken at the Bambi Kino in Hamburg in 1960.
Doesn’t look the same? Let’s mirror the photo, rotate slightly, and zoom in.
OK, the mouth is fuller on the montage, and the (his) right eye doesn’t look exactly the same. (Neither does the hair, but that can easily be added later). It was at this point that Peter noticed that zooming in on the montage reveals a “patch”, pasted on top of the eye, changing its appearance.
I pasted this patch onto the Hamburg photo, as well as the mouth. Now it looks like this:
Maybe my Photoshop skills are not as good as the creator’s, and I should rotate the head a little less, but I believe we arrived at the likeness with this montage. For me, the clincher is that left eye. It just isn’t possible that the eye and eyebrow can appear so precisely identical in two different photos. The eyebrow could be lower or higher, the eye more or less closed, and showing more or less white of the eye, and therefore, the angle of the head, and direction of the gaze, must be identical here. Check also the triangle of cheek the other side of the nose. It appears the same, give or take a shadow or two. On a more technical level, the photo, when blown up, reveals too much blending, patching and feathering to be one single image. Also, there is an area in the bottom-right, below the guitar neck, which has dark greenish/grey tinge and is inconsistent with George’s clothing. It may be an attempt to represent his legs in a sitting position, but looks out of proportion.
Nice job, Mr. Photoshopper, but you left just too many clues!
Ladies and Gentlemen, your honour, that concludes my (our) evidence. You be the judge!
Copyright 2018 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.