Look back at George Harrison’s vintage self-portraits from his trip to India in 1966
It appears that while being one of the greatest songwriters the British isles have ever produced and acting as one-quarter of the biggest band the world has ever known, The Beatles’ George Harrison pioneered the act of a selfie.
Judging by these incredible images from his 1966 trip to Mumbai, India, Harrison was certainly ahead of his time with his choice of composition. The guitarist had flown to India for a trip which was part holiday and part business.
Flying to the sub-continent from London with his wife Pattie Boyd, Harrison was travelling to receive Sitar lessons from the uniquely brilliant Ravi Shankar, as well as pursuing yoga lessons alongside Boyd.
The two stayed at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai under the aliases of Mr and Mrs Sam Wells and enjoyed, judging by Harrison’s images, a wonderful time in the mystical land of India. It would be a trip that would birth a wonderful friendship between Harrison and Shankar who would go on to share the stage on many occasions as well as Shankar being the instigating factor in Harrison’s ‘Concert For Bangladesh’.
“It is strange to see pop musicians with sitars. I was confused at first. It had so little to do with our classical music. When George Harrison came to me, I didn’t know what to think,” says Ravi Shankar in Raga, a 1971 documentary about the sitarist. “But I found he really wanted to learn. I never thought our meeting would cause such an explosion, that Indian music would suddenly appear on the pop scene.”
It was an adoption of Eastern philosophy that would not only affect The Beatles output but also Harrison as a person as he continued to entertain the mysticism of India and beyond. It was something both he and John Lennon had enjoyed when they visited India, “John and George were in their element,” remembers Cynthia Lennon. “They threw themselves totally into the Maharishi’s teachings, were relaxed and above all had found peace of mind that had been denied them for so long.”
The images below show a perpetual creative finding himself a new outlet for self-expression. The guitarist and singer uses the fish-eye lens to create a series of self-portraits which give an insight into Harrison’s 1966 life as one of the most famous men on the planet.