Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon [NOOK Book]


“There were times I was a bit reticent in taking out my camera, like when some ‘old friends’ stopped by to hang out. I didn’t want to intrude on these moments, but John insisted.  He felt that I captured him in ways that no one else did because of his comfort level with me…For years, only my closest friends got to see these photos—which were literally tucked away in a shoebox in my closet.  They were surprised that these images did not convey the John that was portrayed in the press during our time together.  In fact, they saw a

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Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon

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“There were times I was a bit reticent in taking out my camera, like when some ‘old friends’ stopped by to hang out. I didn’t want to intrude on these moments, but John insisted.  He felt that I captured him in ways that no one else did because of his comfort level with me…For years, only my closest friends got to see these photos—which were literally tucked away in a shoebox in my closet.  They were surprised that these images did not convey the John that was portrayed in the press during our time together.  In fact, they saw a side of John seldom seen.”—From INSTAMATIC KARMA

John Lennon is the most famously photographed Beatle—everyone from Iain MacMillian to Annie Lebowitz took iconic images of him—but there have never been pictures of him like these taken by May Pang, Lennon’s girlfriend from 1973 to 1975. In INSTAMATIC KARMA, they’re collected for the first time.  With very few exceptions, these photos are that rare thing: never-before-seen images of an icon.  The photos here show Lennon in a variety of settings: at work, at play, at home, and away. They show a playful Lennon, a casual, unguarded Lennon; they’re the kind of photos one lover takes of another. May has written rich captions to accompany her photos--taken together, they tell a simple story of the time May and Lennon spent together; a time, according to legend, when Lennon was unhappy and unproductive, estranged from his family and bandmates. Pang’s photos clearly tell another story—they show Lennon clowning around, working on his hit album “Walls and Bridges”, embracing old friends and family, hanging out in their apartment on Manhattan’s East 52nd Street, relaxing in the country in upstate New York or spending peaceful days swimming in the waters of Long Island.

The photographs in INSTAMATIC KARMA are both color and black & white, casual Polaroids and more composed shots.  Each one is an intimate glimpse into a fascinating time in John Lennon’s life.

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Editorial Reviews

James Rosen
…a coffee table collection of private snapshots recovered from a shoebox in [Pang's] closet. A visual complement to Loving John, Pang's 1983 memoir, Instamatic Karma bursts with intimate and previously unpublished images of the ex-Beatle in his early 30s: a vibrant, muscular character forever clowning or lounging, equally comfortable in Pang's embroidered bell bottoms, snug swimming trunks and his own skin.
—The Washington Post
School Library Journal

As the personal assistant to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Pang earned the respect and love of the couple for whom she worked. This respect eventually turned into a complicated, though very clearly authentic, romantic relationship between Pang and Lennon. The relationship-which Pang claims was encouraged by Ono during Ono and Lennon's temporary separation-is documented through several surprisingly candid photographs taken by the author during her time with the former Beatle. Of note is the fact that Pang was able to capture both the mundane (Lennon sailing with his son Julian and the author on Long Island Sound) and the monumental (Lennon signing the legal papers that would bring the Beatles to its official end), yet treat each moment with the same amount of affection and admiration with thoughtful, detailed anecdotes throughout the book. Through over 150 photographs, Pang captures a sense of both Lennon's love of America and her own deep affection for Lennon. The collection ultimately works as a heartfelt portrait and rare glimpse into the world of one of the most influential musicians in pop culture history. Highly recommended.
—Sybil Kollappallil

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429993975
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/4/2008
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 853,062
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

MAY PANG worked for ABKCO, the Beatles’ management company, in the early 1970’s, and from there was hired as John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s personal assistant. After her relationship with Lennon ended, Pang worked for Island Records and United Artists. In addition to photography, she designs a line of feng shui jewelry and furniture. She lives in New York with her two children.

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Read an Excerpt

at home

california, here we come
Shortly after John and I got together, he decided we would go to Los Angeles for a white. We hopped on a flight with “Uncle” Harold Seider, John’s lawyer and trusted advisor from the Allen Klein/ABKCO days (John had hired Harold after he left ABKCO, which came in handy in John’s lawsuit against Klein). Harold graciously offered us his apartment and found somewhere else to stay. He knew better than anyone that John had no spending money! We soon met up with two of John’s old friends: Rolling Stone Bill Wyman and the Stones’ ex-manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. Hanging out with Andrew was always good fun. He was staying at legendary producer Lou Adler’s house in Bel Air (Lou had another place in Malibu). Since Andrew would only be in L.A. a few more days, he suggested we ask Lou if we could use the place. We’d put Harold out long enough, so we thought it was a good idea. We didn’t know Lou, so Andrew arranged it for us. We ended up staying there close to two months. These pictures, taken poolside at Adler’s house, are the first I took of our time together.

INSTAMATIC KARMA. Copyright © 2008 by May Pang. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 4, 2011

    A Candid Protrait of the Life and Times of John Lennon and May Pang

    What would you do with a shoebox full of old snapshots? For most people, the answer would be, nothing, unless you happen to be May Pang and those were pictures of John Lennon. Thankfully, May finally realized one day that her long-forgotten photos, dating to the period from 1973 to 1975, needed to be revealed to the world.
    In Instamatic Karma, Author May Pang, John Lennon's lover and constant companion during that period, shares for the first time her personal collection of photographs and remembrances of John during a largely forgotten and often misunderstood period in the life the Beatles' founder.
    May's photo collection, literally gathering dust in her closet for decades, make up a revealing personal diary of an unguarded John doing what he loves: eating, sitting, exploring, swimming, vacationing and just hanging out with family and friends. The photos are typical of any aging album, with variations in quality and lighting, and some grainy polaroids, but each adding to the distinctive character of the collection.
    The photos also vary in their compositons, as some are posed, some intended as an album cover, while others are candid shots capturing John in a variety of dispositions. One shows him at Disney World in Florida in the thin disguise of a floppy cap and dark glasses, and looking pleased to be among large crowds, going totally unnoticed. Another has him floating in the waters of Long Island Sound, eyes closed, head tilted back, totally immersed in the sensation, probably off in some far-away Strawberry Fields dreamland. The remarkable series of shots of him doing an impromptu dance performance at the Central Park Bandshell reveals his best self - carefree, animated, and living in the moment. The sweet images of John relaxing with his older son, Julian, then an adorable pre-teen, display their rarely-seen father-son bond.
    The prints in the book are arranged by chapter, and accompanied by May's descriptions, which display an intimate insight into John and the events that shaped his outlook at the time each picture was taken. Her pictures and words lead to the realization that during this period, John often drove himself hard to complete a busy work schedule, including three album projects and various collaborations. This might help to explain why he sometimes found himself acting out in different ways as a release from work and personal pressures. Seeing John through May's camera lens gives the reader new insights, and whets the appetite for more revelations and details from this intriguing time.
    Personal insights can come in many forms, but May's thoughtful juxtaposition of images and words in Instamatic Karma allows the reader unprecedented access into a fascinating time in John's life. His life with her in the mid 70's, although all too short-lived, was in many ways wonderfully life-affirming and productive, in contrast to how it is often depicted. Intended or not, May Pang's work in Instamatic Karma serves to demystify and illuminate John's life during this period. As his ever-present companion, she was best suited to bring those times to light, and fans of John everywhere will be grateful that she did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2008

    Wonderful glimpse of John

    This is for anyone who loves The Beatles, but especially for those who love John. These are wonderful photos.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2008

    I know I'll often stop & think about them ...

    John's proclaimed 'lost weekend' has been written about over the years and yet we have never had the good fortune to catch such a personal glimpse into his life during those 18 months. These photographs reveal a very happy man enjoying time with his partner May, his son Julian and many of his best mates Ringo, Paul & Harry to name a few. In many respects, these photographic 'gems' paint a very different picture from what has been written or spoken of in the past. John does not appear to be an unsettled, unhappy, unproductive man. Not in the least bit. The photos that were taken on Long Island show a peaceful, relaxed artist enjoying his life. There is a special and tender quality to the photos revealing the reunion of father & son (John & Julian). If a photo is worth a thousand words then this book speaks volumes. Within these photos John's life becomes a little bit richer for all to see. May has given us a lovely treasure to behold!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2010

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    Posted November 21, 2008

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