McBean (1904-1990) might seem to belong entirely to the past, and yet he created one – or rather two – of the best-known group portraits of modern times, that are still in record shops, on websites, in your memory. In 1963 the man who had once photographed Ivor Novello leaning against gigantic copies of his own plays and musicals bound in leather, as if they were already hallowed monuments of English literature, met a pop group he described as “a gangling group of four young men in mole-coloured velveteen performing suits of a terrible cut”. Should he pose the Beatles with urns, or dress them as tritons, or … what? The Beatles did not belong in the same dreamworld as the actress René Ray, whose real name was Irene Lilian Creese and who was to die Countess of Midleton, and whose glistening features he pictured in 1938 emerging from a moist clay sculpture of her own hair. They could not be inserted into the greasepaint fantasia of the McBean studio; their fame was to be of a different nature. And so he photographs them not in his studio but at the offices of EMI on Manchester Square.