“I like the way you see me.” That is what John Lennon said to May Pang, a personal assistant and music production coordinator who had an 18-month relationship with the legendary Beatle in the mid-1970s.
One of Lennon’s favorite images of himself was a photo snapped by Pang on a getaway at a friend’s place in upstate New York. Walking together on a dirt road, Pang says she dropped back and called out his name, capturing the image of Lennon in a much-loved Aran sweater, sunglasses and a slouchy beret. “If I got it, I got it,” she says. “I never bothered to take more than one shot.”
This weekend fans will have the chance to meet Pang and to see the photograph and others she took of the famed musician in “Rock & Roll Through Our Lenses with May Pang & Deborah Feingold” at the Long Island Picture Frame & Art Gallery in Oyster Bay. “You are looking at images through two different eyes — one personal and one professional,” says Pang of the show’s premise.
“There was more of a connection between me and John,” she explains, comparing the homey, candid snapshots she took with her SX-70 Polaroid and Nikkormat 35 mm cameras — also featured in her 2008 book “Instamatic Karma” (St. Martin’s Press) — to those staged by pro photographers. Four portraits of Lennon playfully making faces while on the rooftop balcony of their East Side apartment included in the exhibition inspired the cover of his 1974 solo album “Walls and Bridges,” on which Pang whispers her lover’s name on the track “#9 Dream.”
The daughter of Chinese immigrants who grew up in Spanish Harlem, Pang is also credited with taking one of the last known images of Lennon and Paul McCartney, featured here along with rare pictures of Lennon with Julian, moments his firstborn son describes as “the happiest time I can remember” with his famous father.
Celebrity photographer Deborah Feingold, who met Pang in 1988 while on assignment for People magazine, will also be at the gallery. Feingold found her work on display next to a portrayal of Lennon by Pang in an exhibition guest curated by Alec Baldwin for fine-art dealers Rock Paper Photo in Manhattan in 2013. “I was quite happy,” says Pang about her photo being selected for the show.
Now, in “Rock & Roll Through Our Lenses,” Pang’s intimate shots of Lennon are once again in good company, juxtaposed with Feingold’s telling portraits that reveal rock stars more as people than celebrities. Feingold catches Prince in his dressing room, spread out on a couch, seductive and vulnerable; a post-shoot Cyndi Lauper looking dreamy-eyed and determined while walking down a cobblestone city street; Billy Joel kicking back in his yard; and Paul Shaffer striking a pose on a rattan chaise beneath a Manhattan restaurant fortuitously named Paul’s Lounge.
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A young, self-possessed Madonna meeting the viewer’s gaze while licking a red lollipop has become iconic, reproduced worldwide.
“Everything was right,” says Feingold about the moment she clicked the shutter button. As evidenced in this exhibition of revelatory images, it is a sentiment to which Pang can relate.
WHEN | WHERE 5-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 15-16, Long Island Picture Frame & Art Gallery of Oyster Bay, 4 Audrey Ave.
INFO Free; 516-558-7511, lipf.com