Linda McCartney Retrospective Review by Terry Sweeney
Those, whose knowledge of Linda McCartney is based on her days as the wife of a Beatle and a member of Wings, may be surprised that as Linda Eastman she was already a successful photographer by the mid 1960s, when she met Paul McCartney.
Her images of mid-1960s Rock stars were iconic photographs and some of them graced their album covers. Many of those photographs are collected here, and are a window into a time in music when new directions were being forged on a weekly basis.
Eastman famously got her ‘break’ In New York, when Town and Country magazine received an invitation to photograph the Rolling Stones for a record promotion party on a yacht on the Hudson. She volunteered to represent the magazine as its photographer, and became the only photographer allowed on the yacht.
Linda enjoyed it, showed a knack for putting rock stars at their ease and realised that she could make a living at it. A few months later she was backstage as a photographer at the Shea Stadium where the Beatles were performing. The rest, as they say, is history.
Eastman then became an unofficial house photographer at the Fillmore East in San Francisco. Among the artists she shot there were Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendix, B.B.King, Eric Clapton, The Who, and the San Francisco bands; Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Neil Young.
Shots from the Stones on the Hudson, and many of the Filmore East photographs are shown here. Some of her most powerful photographs are of those artists performing, and the shoots of B B King and Janis Joplin capture the raw power of their performances.
Some of the more surprising shots here were actually taken by the stars themselves, including one of Linda by Clapton, and one by Jim Morrison. Her photograph of Young, taken in 1967, was used on the cover of his album Sugar Mountain-Live at Canterbury House 1968.
Linda also shot photographs that became album covers for a number of McCartney and Wings albums, and the cover shot for the single ‘The Girl is mine’, by McCartney and Michael Jackson.
She photographed Clapton for Rolling Stone magazine and became the first woman to have a photograph featured on the front cover (May 11, 1968).
We were already familiar with many of these images, having seen an exhibition of Linda and Mary McCartney’s photographs; Mother Daughter, in Fotografiska, Stockholm in 2017. Seeing them again here reinforces the freshness and power of the shots, and what a fertile period this was for music, and for Linda.
The Walker Art Gallery major retrospective of Linda McCartney’s photography ranges from these iconic depictions of the music scene of the 1960s, to family life with Paul. It features over 250 images that reveal what a prolific photographer Linda was, and how her love for the natural world, her surreal sense of humour, and an exceptional eye for capturing the spontaneous, gave her work an inimitable style.
The exhibition also includes a selection of images taken in Liverpool and Wirral which have never been on public display before.
The family photographs are perhaps the most poignant images here. One of Paul and one of the children peering out from a bath full of bubbles showcases her surreal sense of humour, and ability to see exactly the right composition and framing.
Other images from their home in Kintyre and Surrey with the children and family pets demonstrate how the couple managed to carve out a stable home life away from the world of music and celebrity that they inhabited as Paul and Linda McCartney.
Linda McCartney Retrospective runs until 10 Jan 2021 at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Book tickets
All photographs © Paul McCartney / Photographer: Linda McCartney