Books: Photograph, by Ringo Starr (2013)

Imagine looking through old photos with a family member, with that person reminiscing about people, places, and events with each turn of the album page. Now imagine Ringo Starr in place of that family member, and you’ll understand the experience of reading his new e-book Photograph, a collection of his private photographs.

Available through iTunes and the iBookstore, Photograph allows readers to peruse rare pictures while listening to sound clips of Starr providing background on various shots. It all adds up to an enjoyable and highly interactive reading adventure, even if one wishes Starr would have added even more details about his life.

Photograph’s user interface is fairly intuitive for anyone used to iPad apps. Simply swipe the screen to turn pages, touch photographs to enlarge them, and expand or pinch fingers together to zoom in and out. (Unfortunately you cannot remove your fingers when zooming in, or the picture will snap right back to its original size.)

Various icons on different pages indicate if a sound clip is available — just look for drawings of peace signs, volume knobs, microphones, and other images. A brief video precedes each chapter, with Starr providing additional insights — though, occasionally the video takes extra time to load.

Starr’s pictures span from childhood to the 1970s, not always in chronological order. While his stories about growing up in Liverpool lend additional perspective about his career, it’s clearly the Beatles photos that generate the most interest. These pictures fascinate not just because of the subject matter, but due to their charming normality. Snaps of Starr and John Lennon on vacation with their wives could be from anyone’s photo album. They all wear wide grins as they show off the fish they just caught; another shows Starr and Lennon holding Monopoly money. (They used to play the game often).

Other photos depict the Beatles offstage, hanging around their hotels, drinks and cigarettes usually within reach. Rarely seen lighter sides of Brian Epstein and George Martin can be glimpsed as they model “Beatle wigs,” and candid shots depict the boys relaxing. Starr also shows off his attempts at artsy photography, particularly those from the psychedelic era. But Photograph excels when showing well-known figures in casual moments, such as Peter Sellers, T-Rex’s Marc Bolan, and best friend Harry Nilsson. Listening to Starr fondly reminisce about the underrated singer provides a touching moment.

Photograph concludes with a virtual preview of Starr’s new exhibition at the Grammy Museum. View up-close pictures of his most famous clothes, including his Sgt. Pepper costume, some of his Help! wardrobe, stage outfits, and even the red rain slicker he wore during the 1969 rooftop concert. Unfortunately, no commentary accompanies this section.

The narration at points throughout the book is fun but all too brief. One senses that Starr is holding back, particularly since this e-book marks just the beginning of a three-pronged project. Along with Photograph and the Grammy Museum exhibit, he will publish a signed, limited edition version of Photograph. This lavish Genesis publication will include additional photographs not seen in the e-book, and will be available in December 2013.

While one wishes Starr had shared even more memories, it is still a thoroughly engrossing reading experience. Photograph illustrates how e-books can fully exploit multimedia tools to enhance the relationship between author and reader. Thus, this format allows Starr to integrate visual and audio arts to tell his own story.

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Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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