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Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon Hardcover – March 4, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Lennon was famously requested by wife Yoko Ono to have an affair with the couple’s personal assistant, May Pang, while on sabbatical from the marriage. Apparently, Pang had a camera, but the biggest wonder is that no book of her photos appeared until now. The pictures show Lennon at a time of estrangement and personal excess (drink and drugs). The latter may be inferred from the cheery shot of Lennon with surprisingly fresh-faced Bobby Keys, who played the sax lead on the hit “Tequila” as a teen and became Keith Richards’ dedicated imbibing partner. Other photos touch on underappreciated facets of Lennon’s life: he and son Julian, then about 10, cavort in the water; Julian dresses up in John’s clothes—all very homey, as are shots of Lennon and Pang exuding domestic bliss. Not out to foment scandal, Pang comments about Lennon’s recording activities and personal concerns of the time very gently. Great for fans and desirable if not essential for biographical reference. And finally, how can libraries go wrong acquiring anything about any Beatle? --Mike Tribby

About the Author

MAY PANG worked for ABKCO, the Beatles’ management company, in the early 1970’s, and from there was hired as John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s personal assistant.  After her relationship with Lennon ended, Pang worked for Island Records and United Artists. In addition to photography, she designs a line of feng shui jewelry and furniture. She lives in New York with her two children.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031237741X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312377410
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I hoped "Instamatic Karma" gave us more details about the romance of John Lennon and May Pang, I was not disappointed in buying May's new book. This hard cover book was tastefully created and contains 157 photographs in color and black and white that I had never seen before. These are not glamour shots or publicity photos. These are real, candid photos worthy of any John Lennon fans' collection. The photos come with a well-written narration by May.

"Instamatic Karma" has plenty of photos of John and May showing there was a real relationship between the two. There are many nice photos of Julian during visits with his father, swimming, going to Disneyland, and general clowning around. Cynthia and Julian Lennon added an endnote to the book expressing thanks to May for her kindness and friendship to them, which was touching.

Since there is controversy about the common misconception that the years 1973 and 1974 were nothing more than a "Lost Weekend" for John, it was very satisfying to see photographic proof not only of the relationship, but that Lennon was happy, social and artistic during those years. There are photos of John with friends like Paul and Linda McCartney, Ringo Starr, David Bowie, Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson, Jesse Ed Davis, Klaus Voormann and Mal Evans who spent time with John during this productive and commercially successful period. And there are some great photos from the recording sessions of "Walls and Bridges."

I highly recommend this book for Lennon fans. It's a beautiful book at a reasonable price. And you can still get a copy of the First Edition!
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Format: Hardcover
Four stars for a small collection of mostly good, previously unseen photographs. But I was a little disappointed in the sparse information accompanying the pics. Overall, a quick read and a nice collection of snapshots. Speaking as a huge Lennon fan, a must-have.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is hard to pick up a book about John Lennon these days without coming across the words "icon" or "iconic." So for die-hard Lennon fans, this book does not disappoint. The book consists of 138 pages of text and photos, chronicling was has become known as his "lost weekend" with May Pang--the employee designated by Yoko Ono to "date" John when they were on the outs. But this weekend was not a weekend at all, but an 18-month relationship that quickly became a love affair from 1973 to 1975. May was the yin to Yoko's yang (forgive the alliteration), and she created a safe harbor for him to escape his high-profile and sometimes destructive lifestyle and to reconnect with his son Julian and old friends. John and May took informal snaps of each other and of those in their world during this period, both in color & black and white, most taken with either a Polaroid or Instamatic camera. Unfortunately some of the shots, quite frankly, are a bit substandard to publish. They are the kind that we all take of our significant others without much regard to setting or composition or even focus, and then we throw them in a shoebox just as May did and forget about them. These only got into print because John was who he was. But there are others in this collection, many never seen before, that help to burnish or enlarge his image. He could be youthfully handsome or playful or cynical or contemplative, and those shots act as a Rorschach for those of us still wanting to understand who the "real" John Lennon was. He was comfortable enough with May to let his unguarded side show, and for that we should all be grateful for this visual history. A very touching element was the tribute from Cynthia and Julian Lennon on the book's back cover, lauding May for her openness and compassion towards them for which they say they will always be "her greatest champions." There was both a public Lennon and a private one, and this book is an interesting insider's peek at the latter.
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Format: Hardcover
John Lennon's "Lost Weekend" gets the 'once over lightly' treatment in this reminiscence by May Pang, his companion/girlfriend during that period. Pang was an employee of John & Yoko when 'Mother' lined Pang up with her husband. Pang and Lennon were an item from mid-1973 to 1975 and INSTAMATIC KARMA is the account of those months.

Pang's account of her time with Lennon is a collection of reminiscences; certain moments, events or people being described as well as illustrated with photographs she took at the time. Short chapters talk about first visits with son Julian, John signing the papers dissolving the Beatles, sailing/swimming trips, hanging out with Harry Nilsson and so on.

Pang's book is valuable in correcting misconceptions regarding the Lost Weekend. As revealed in the book, Lennon didn't spend the entire time acting like an idiot and getting wasted with Nilsson but, as shown in the book, had many wonderful moments with family and friends.

Having said that, I was somewhat disappointed by the slightness of Pang's effort. I was hoping for more insights into the man. Likewise the photos are a mixed bag; most are fair to good, a few are filler. In any case, it's a quick read.

Depending on how you view John Lennon, INSTAMATIC KARMA may be an essential purchase or a missed opportunity. I enjoyed the book but I'm not wild about it. Recommended with some reservations.
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