Yoko Ono

Catching Yoko

In January 2008 Bill and I volunteered to make some portraits for the John Lennon Educational Bus in Las Vegas, NV. We do a fair amount of pro bono work, almost all of it education related.  

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is a non-profit mobile audio and HD video recording and production facility. The Bus travels around, providing young people with free digital media production workshops. Assisted by on-board engineers, students can learn how to write, record, and produce original songs, music videos, documentaries, and live multi-camera video productions.

We were set to do images of the musicians, editors and educators that would be traveling on the bus and a few celebrity supporters - Pat Monahan, Will.I.Am, Natasha Bedingfield, and Yoko Ono herself.

Natasha Bedingfield went first. In 2008 she was at the height of her American celebrity with hits like “Pocket Full of Sunshine” and “Unwritten.” She was fun and flirty in her pictures, and stuck around after her shoot to joke around with everyone on set.

Pat Monahan was next. He was down to earth and smart. After his shoot he hung out and exchanged sarcastic quips with Bill and told me the story behind my favorite of his songs, “Meet Virginia.”

Will.I.Am was third. He showed up for a few frames and took off again. He was quiet and seemed almost shy which I didn’t expect, but he photographed well.

From left: Will.I.Am, Natasha Bedingfield and Pat Monahan. Photos by Bill Frakes.

Yoko Ono was last. Her entrance was like the Beatles themselves had entered the building. Everyone on set collapsed around her. She was tiny and gracious. Quiet compared to her lightning rod international persona. As she stepped onto the grey muslin backdrop we had set up for her portrait, she was saying hello to someone to her right and didn’t see the large light stand in front of her. Her foot caught the edge of it and she fell forward, directly into my arms. 

I quite literally caught Yoko Ono.

She looked up at me and laughed. I quickly apologized and helped her into position on the set.  

Before the shoot I asked Bill if he thought I could get a picture with Yoko once she arrived or if it would be inappropriate to ask. He had a different idea. Before she arrived Bill handed me a light meter and told me to hold it up when she was on set. The only problem with his plan was I had never used a light meter before and didn’t know which way to hold it. Bill had to stop and tell me to turn the light meter toward the light (tricky how that works). The resulting image is the greatest picture ever taken of me.

Yoko definitely knew I was only “testing” our well tested lights to get a picture with her, and I am eternally grateful to her for allowing it to happen.