Photographer Mike Mitchell was only 18 when he received a press pass to document the Beatles as they arrived in Washington D.C.'s Union Station to perform their first concert in the country. For almost 50 years the photographs from that historical moment in Beatlemania had been gathering dust in Mitchell's basement — until he became a victim of the U.S. housing crisis. It was then that the photographer decided to dig them out and approach Christie's about auctioning the black-and-white pictures.
Following exhibitions of the rare Beatles moments in London and New York, on July 20 Christie's will auction off "The Beatles Illuminated: the Discovered Works of Mike Mitchell," 50 lots of unpublished and never-before-seen images that Mitchell had kept tucked away for so long.
The photos offer an up close and personal look at the Fab Four's American invasion in 1964 — one of Ringo Starr's hands, and others of the band mid-performance, giving viewers an idea of Mitchell's unfettered stage access. Mitchell caught the Beatles two days after their famous Ed Sullivan performance as they performed their first concert at the Washington Coliseum. Mitchell also snapped up images during their return visit to embark on their first U.S. tour a few months later at the Baltimore Civic Center on September 13, 1964.
While there are countless Beatles images in existence, Mitchell's intimate experience with the band provides both a new and different perspective. Estimates say the collection could garner $100,000 at auction,with the photographs valued at approximately $1,000 to $6,000 each.
The photographs capture not just the Beatles, but also an era of freedom that no longer exists for the press. "Things were much different back then," Mitchell told Reuters in June. "There was no big security presence, the press wasn't corralled and I was free to sort of embrace my own ambition."