Kishin Shinoyama, John and Yoko

Just weeks before John Lennon was assassinated, the photographer immortalised the couple during an intimate moment.


WordsHenri Robert

Copyright: 2014 Kishin Shinoyama

In 1980, Japanese photographer Kishin Shinoyama spent five days with John Lennon and Yoko Ono to shoot a series of photographs for the cover of the couple’s album, Double Fantasy. At the request of Yoko Ono, these photographs were compiled in the book Kishin Shinoyama. John Lennon & Yoko Ono. Double Fantasy (2015), published by Taschen.

Born in 1940, Kishin Shinoyama studied at Nippon University and has immortalised various celebrities over the course of his career, including Yukio Mishima, Momoe Yamaguchi, and Rie Miyazawa. He has also made a name for himself owing to the quality of his nudes.


Final moments

It was during an exhibition held in Tokyo to celebrate the album’s thirtieth anniversary that Yoko Ono had the idea of presenting some of the 800 photographs that were initially taken. As Kishin Shinoyama explains to the New York Times Style Magazine: ‘There were many pictures that Yoko had never seen for over 30 years. She said to me, “Thank you for taking images of my happiest time. How about making a photo book with these pictures?”‘

For this series, Kishin Shinoyama started by working in the New York studio where the couple were recording in 1980, before following them on walks in Central Park and in their home. The photographer appears surprisingly close to his subjects and his images exude such spontaneity that they look like they were taken from a family album. The couple, captured in moments of intimacy and tenderness, seem to be paying no attention to the presence of the camera. A few months later, John Lennon would be assassinated outside his home.

Another side of Kishin Shinoyama’s work is illustrated in the book Yukio Mishima, The Death of a Man, published in 2020, 50 years after the author committed suicide. This work reveals the project undertaken by the two artists, aiming to create a morbid photographic report.


John Lennon & Yoko Ono. Double Fantasy (2015), a book of photographs by Kishin Shinoyama, is published by Taschen.

Copyright: 2014 Kishin Shinoyama

Copyright: 2014 Kishin Shinoyama

Copyright: 2014 Kishin Shinoyama