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Color photos from early Tokyo to the Beatles and beyond

November 28, 2009 |  5:34 am

Beatles “Seeing in Color,” drawn from Stephen White’s collection of photographs, is a sleeper of an exhibition tucked away at Los Angeles Valley College’s art gallery. But visitors find an unusual range of aesthetic approaches, including some surprises.

Along with color photographs by well-known artists, including Will Connell, Joel Meyerowitz, Susan Rankaitis and Grant Mudford, there's an image of a red spot on Jupiter from NASA-JPL.

The show, on view through Dec. 17, also has curiosities, such as an anonymous photographer’s shot of three of the Beatles — Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Ringo Starr — taken in 1964 on the group’s first trip to the U.S.

At first, the picture seems unremarkable. The singers are simply enjoying themselves in New York.

But they happen to be standing in Central Park with the Dakota Apartments, where Lennon would be assassinated 16 years later, in the background.

Japanese Scene One of the earliest images, circa 1870, is also the work of an anonymous artist. The hand-colored albumen print, called “Shinobadzu Pond at Unyeo, Tokyo,” is a breathtakingly quiet landscape with a tiny figure framed by a gateway to natural beauty. Other 19th century works show how early photographers used hand-coloring techniques to give their pictures a more lifelike appearance, sometimes meticulously painting leaves, blossoms or details of clothing.

Billed as “a survey of photographic processes from 1860 to the present day, including such techniques as hand-tinting, autochrome, tricolor carbro and dye transfer,” the show is meant to give viewers a sense of how color photography evolved from labor-intensive experiments to a ubiquitous art form.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

Photos: “Beatles (Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Ringo Starr),” 1964, chromogenic print, and “Shinobadzu Pond at Unyeo, Tokyo,” circa 1870, hand-colored albumen print, both by anonymous photographers. Credit: Stephen White Collection II