Linda Mc Cartney Retrospective 2019


Self-Portrait, Sussex, 1992

© Paul McCartney/Photographer: Linda McCartney


Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum




July  5   2019  -  Jan  12  2020






A Feature by Mary Fox Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!


‘I was a bit shy and introverted, but looking out through the lens I saw, and I forgot myself and I could actually see life. This enthusiasm came out of me, and it did, photography changed my life in that way…’ Linda McCartney


Artist, animal rights activist, author, entrepreneur, mother, musician, song-writer, vegetarian, wife, Linda McCartney (1941–1998) faced the challenges presented by balancing all of these facets of herself with philosophically good humour, right up the end of her life, her last public appearance being in Paris, with husband of 29 years, Paul, in support of their daughter, Stella, making her debut as a fashion designer on the catwalks, just one month before her death from breast cancer in ‘98. Exemplary in all she did, generous of spirit and kindly in nature, Linda has left the world with a legacy of goodwill and compassion, and as a visible reminder of her warming presence, a wealth of true to life photographs of her world, through her eyes.


But, after two years of playing with The Beatles, in Hamburg, Germany and all over the UK, drummer Pete Best, Mona’s son, was unceremoniously replaced by Ringo Starr, having played with The Beatles the night before at the Cavern. The dirty work as John Lennon would later refer to the deed, was done by Brian Epstein, and that, as they say, was that. Or was it? Here, we find out what happened to Pete after that callously done push and of course, what happened from shortly after, to their 1970 breakup to John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Linda McCartney taken by Eric Clapton, 1967

© Paul McCartney / Photographer – Eric Clapton



A wall-full of absorbing photos of multi-faceted Linda McCartney greets us; self- portraits, peppered with stunning photographs by Eric Clapton, Jim Morrison and Paul McCartney, the latter, with finer points shining through young Linda’s oft stylish, more often, sunny, exterior.



Linda, by Paul, Scotland, 1970

© Paul McCartney / Photographer – Paul McCartney

It strikes me that Mona Best aka Mother of Merseybeat would make a fascinating subject for a documentary, and/or film about her life and invaluable contributions to the world of rock n roll music, as without her vision, Liverpool’s musical outpourings might have remained a local success, rather than the influential, worldwide movement they became. This was doubly important in the days when London, with its posh accents dominated not just the music scene, but arts in general. Mona’s humble club acted as a battering ram to break down barriers, all the more remarkable achievement in what would have then, been, totally, a man’s world.

While studying for an Art History degree in Arizona, Linda Eastman took up nature photography as a hobby. A few years later, in 1965, and only two night course photography sessions after, inspired by the work of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston, and Ansel Adams, whose photos, teacher, Hazel Archer had shown the class, as well as the work of Edward Steichen and Henri Cartier Bresson, Eastman, who’d grown up in Scarsdale, a suburb of New York City, moved to Manhattan. It was there, while working as a receptionist for Town and Country Magazine, that an invite she’d, in her own words, ‘put in her drawer’, to photograph the Rolling Stones on yacht SS Sea Panther on the Hudson River, on June 24, 1966, would change the course of her life, after, camera in hand, she went down to the pier. When it was announced that only one photographer could come on board, the pretty young blond with the camera round her neck was chosen, and the rest is history, as the informal, candid shots she took of the band so impressed the magazine, that they published an editorial feature around them, resulting in more offers of magazine photography work, to the point that she was able to quit her receptionist job, with the idea of becoming a professional photographer. I say idea, because, Linda, being the informal, chance taker she was had this to say about her maiden voyage into professionalism: ‘I just kept clicking away with the camera, and I enjoyed it and they enjoyed it and suddenly I found that taking pictures was a great way to live and a great way to work’. Photos from that session are here, in the gallery, as are other classic shots of now, iconic Rock musicians, many of whom were relatively unknown at the time, her friend, Jimi Hendrix, among them. Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, whom Eastman was hired to do a fashion shoot of for Mademoiselle in LA in 1968, and BB King, who she later photographed at Fillmore East, where she became a house photographer, also taking photos of The Who, Janis Joplin and band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Grateful Dead and The Doors with their poet/front man, Jim Morrison, were among the many musicians she would document during that seminal period in the mid to late ’60’s.


Aretha Franklin modelling for Mademoiselle, 1968

© Paul McCartney / Photographer – Linda McCartney


Eastman was especially interested in photographing two bands at the start of her career, Stevie Winwood, formerly of Spencer Davis Group, and his new band, Traffic, and The Beatles, having already seen the latter, in concert in 1965, at Shea Stadium, where she’d been frustrated she couldn’t hear them. While on assignment in London in 1967, taking photographs for Rock and Other Four Letter Words by J. Marks, she left a portfolio of her work at Hilly House, office of Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, who a few days later got back to not only say that he loved her photos, but to invite her to the Press launch for the upcoming release of Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band at his home in Belgravia, where she’d have her chance to photograph The Beatles at last. Linda had already met Paul in the Bag O Nails nightclub in Soho a few nights before, when their eyes met across the room and after a chat, McCartney had invited her to carry on to another club with him and their respective entourages, which likely included members of The Animals, whom Eastman been invited to join for a ‘few bevvies and smokes’ after photographing them. The lone photo Linda felt artistically happy with taken at the Sgt Pepper launch at Epstein’s house that night, also a highlight here, has since gone on to become a staple for any Beatles fan, as it captured an unguarded moment of laughter, which, according to McCartney, summed up the band’s relationship -John being funny, in his inimitable ‘posh’ way, and the others enjoying his joke



The Beatles at Brian Epstein’s home in Belgravia at the launch of

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, London, 1967

© 1967 Paul McCartney / Photographer – Linda McCartney



Far from being an instant ‘thing’, following their first meeting and re-meet, McCartney and Eastman went their separate ways, connecting here and there in New York and LA when their professional paths crossed, sometime after which, when Paul was back at his bachelor pad in London for the long term, Linda received a phone call, inviting her to visit him there, where she would, unknowingly, witness and photograph, the final days of The Beatles. Things took their natural course with the pair, and after some persuasion, with McCartney assuring her everything would ‘be alright this time’, divorcee Eastman consented to marry him and the pair tied the knot at Marylebone Register Office, on March 13, 1969. In 1970, the newlyweds, with Linda’s daughter Heather, from her first marriage, whom Paul adopted, and their first born, Mary, named after his late mother, moved to his three-bedroom cottage on High Park Farm, in Kintyre, Scotland. One of Linda’s notebooks, laying open in a case here, simply says ‘Scotland’ across its pages, to mark the occasion, in puffy, rather psychedelic letters, with a little house and trees sketched alongside and a beaming sun above. Linda had only ever visited the farm once before, at which time, Paul ‘didn’t think she’d like it much’, but it provided a safe haven from post Beatles fallout and many happy, family memories, some of which are visually documented here. Mary made her first public appearance in Linda’s photograph of her, inside Paul’s pile lined jacket, on the back cover of his first solo album, McCartney. Another family photo, which captures the joy of being there, in their Scottish home, together, at that pivotal time in their lives, almost seems random, such is the exuberance it conveys at their new found freedom, as baby Mary raises her arm in the air, seemingly in solidarity with her father, whose dirty hands and knees suggest he’s been working the land, as Heather leans over to curiously examine a latch on the fence, possibly, humming a little song to herself.




Mary, Paul and Heather, Scotland, 1970

© Paul McCartney / Photographer – Linda McCartney



It was an enlightening experience for me, studying the contact sheets from some of Linda’s photos, as so relaxed did the circumstances they were taken in seem, that the chosen shot often wound up being, not only magical, but seemingly, spontaneous. Known for her incredibly accurate framing capabilities, Linda never cropped a photo or rejected a shot due to focus or lighting, as for her, such technicalities interfered with her artistic intent. And her love of natural light meant she artfully used what nature provided, rather than flashes. As Linda stated: ‘I think you just feel instinctively, you got to just click on the moment. Not before it and not after it. I think if you are worried about light meters and all that stuff, you just miss it. For me, it just came from my inners, as they say. Just excitement, I love it – I get very excited.’ With Linda’s seize the moment ethos in mind, I looked at the series of photos taken to arrive at the shot below, which would, to many merely seem to be a lucky one, but as was always the case, its’ scenario simply unfolded as she watched, then, captured it for posterity.





Paul, Stella and James, Scotland, 1982

© Paul McCartney/ Photographer: Linda McCartney



The exhibition also features copies of several of Linda’s Polaroid photos, which afforded immediate results, making them an experimental medium of choice when speed was of the essence. Sun printing, inspired by WH Fox Talbot, was, conversely, a much slower, more natural technique, utilising sunlight, which, for the works shown here, were combined with cyanotype/blue printing, to great effect. These are among her most uniquely produced works. Looking at Linda’s cameras, a, by now, old school Olympus SLR and a Kodak ‘polaroid’, with lenses, and case, behind glass, and stamps bearing her name and the word, ‘photograph’, seemingly waiting for her to pick them up, was, for me, an unexpectedly poignant experience. Having already been chosen Female Photographer of the Year in the US in 1967, on May 11, 1968 Linda Eastman soon to be McCartney, also became the first female photographer whose work appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, with her portrait of Eric Clapton, and in ‘74, when she appeared on the cover with her spouse, Paul during the height of their Wings years, she also became the first Rolling Stone photographer to appear on both sides of the lens. It’s a well-known fact by now, that Linda and Paul McCartney were happily married for 29 years, together for 30, by the time of her passing in 1998. What isn’t widely enough known is the tenderly observational eye with which Linda photographed her family, animals and the world around her within those years. Here, we get to see her world, through her eyes, and it’s a real privilege, not in the eye-popping way of glamour and celebrity, but the eye-opening light of everyday. The passing of years is encapsulated in a series of moments, some special, some humanly hum-drum, yet all uniquely endearing in their own ways. Seeing them is like being a fly on the wall and glimpsing the truth behind the aesthetics, the true way of things, such was McCartney’s knack for capturing the reality of the moment, at times, slightly skewed, as if to remind viewers that this is her view, in which we can share through her photos, but truly, hers alone. There were many jewels within the crowning achievements of the McCartney household, always, centring around their love and support of and for one another, to the point where Linda’s photos exude warmth, like a pot bellied stove on a cold winter morning, leaving you with, not sadness at her untimely passing, but a real sense of the joy she felt when she was alive and of the life in her photos. Take, for example, this photo of Paul, being himself, having a laugh, brown paper bag with a bottle of whiskey they’d picked up in Glasgow, on their way back to High Park Farm, Mull of Kintyre, tucked under his arm.



Paul, Glasgow, 1970

© Paul McCartney / Photographer – Linda McCartney




A small room off the larger one, near the start of the exhibition, showcasing now iconic photos of celebrities, aimed at showing the person within the persona, which, launched McCartney’s professional career, highlights Linda’s love of animals, as in the case of this tender image of her beloved horse, Lucky Spot. Through it, viewers are somehow, privy to his, seemingly ethereal beauty, and outward strength, intermingled with fragility, and, at the same time that it is lovely to look at, the scene also, inexplicably, inspires thoughts of the transience of life. Yet another fine example of the emotional depth of Linda McCartney’s artwork.



Lucky Spot in Daisy Field, Sussex, 1985

© Paul McCartney/Photographer: Linda McCartney



In addition to her admiration and love of animals, Linda McCartney was a fighter for their rights, capturing man’s casual ignoring of same through her art, via photos of lifeless fish in Martinique, rabbits hung by their heels in a butcher shop in London, lambs hearts selling for .99p a pound on a table in Brick Lane, and other visual reminders that meat is, indeed, murder. As meat eating is still, sadly, more often the norm than not, one cannot help but wonder why, as Linda became an activist for the prevention of cruelty to animals via involvement with, among other organisations, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals),The Council for the Protection of Rural England, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, and, in 1991 started her own line of vegetarian foods, to aid in the transition towards more humane lifestyles, still going strong today, as well as authoring several popular cookbooks with a wide variety of easy, vegetarian recipes, one can’t help but wonder why this section of the exhibition is in such an out of the way location that it could easily be overlooked. Linda’s activism, readily available meat free foods and helpful cookbooks have been a pivotal bridge for many who, since trying them, have gone on to become vegetarians for life, yours truly among them. Imaginative as ever, utilising the people and landscapes around her throughout her life, in a pre-digital age, when photographic diaries were not the norm, Linda continued to capture fleeting moments, likely using her, as photographer, eldest daughter Mary pointed out, ‘same old 50mm lens’. Within the context of the seemingly, everyday lives of her family, is this sensitive portrait of youngest daughter, Stella, in ‘89, displaying wistful uncertainty.


Stella, Amsterdam, 1989

© Paul McCartney / Photographer – Linda McCartney


In the final section of this evocative Retrospective, ‘Scotland,’ we see some of the people and scenarios which doubtless, act as memory joggers for the McCartneys, from the time they lived at High Park Farm near Campbelltown, among them, one of a group of old men who’d stood on a street-corner in town, in caps and long coats, whom townspeople referred to as ‘the old biddies.’ Whenever Paul, Linda and the children rode past, as they headed back from Glasgow and beyond, they’d wave to them. Incidents like that, repeated over a period of time which, in their day, might have seemed endless, could easily be forgotten, but thankfully, as recorded here, they’re capable of bringing back a whole era in life and accompanying stories.


As Linda herself stated, ‘When I think about how and when one releases the shutter, it’s for a multitude of reasons. Every photographer is searching for a definition that he or she doesn’t really know how to explain until after the fact. When we are holding the print in our hand, then we know what it was we were really looking for and whether or not we found it. The real thing that makes a photographer is more than just a technical skill, more than turning on the radio. It has to do with the force of inner intention. I have always called this a visual signature.’


The renowned photographs of Linda McCartney have, by now, been shown in several parts of the world, though in many cases, in group exhibitions. This major Retrospective, curated by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney, here, in conjunction with Glasgow Life aka Glasgow Museums, and the cooperation of the Linda McCartney Achieve, in collaboration with Sarah Brown, is being shown in the UK for the first time, having been initially staged in Vienna’s Kunst Haus Wien, in 2013, the year after, in Ville de Montpellier, France and Daelim Cultural Foundation, in Seoul, South Korea. Prior to its’ long overdue run in Glasgow, the largest showing of Linda’s work in the UK, Linda McCartney Photographs was staged by her family at London’s James Hyman Gallery to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of her passing, in 2008.


Having been privileged to have seen and, loved this memorable exhibition, I must add that I’m grateful to Linda McCartney for trusting her judgment in regard to her creativity and, life. It’s been an inspiration seeing so many of her wonder-filled photos together in one place and basking in the glow of their gentle, oft ironic inner warmth. It’s only fitting the gallery they are in is in Scotland, a land Linda loved. Kelvingrove Art Museum and Gallery in Glasgow must be proud to host this unmissable exhibition. I know I wouldn’t have missed it for the world…


Linda by Paul, 1976, Scotland

© Paul McCartney / Photographer – Paul McCartney


Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8AG


Film by John Couzens

Creative Writing on the Arts
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