“Photography was an interest at first, then a passion. By chance I was even able to make some money photographing musicians. But I always photographed for myself, and I’ve never stopped.” – Linda McCartney
Linda McCartney started her career as a receptionist at Town and Country in 1966. Through this job she was able to get an invitation to a yacht on the Hudson River where The Rolling Stones were giving a press conference. She was the only photographer allowed to stay on the boat. Consequently, her images were in high demand once she left the vessel. This lucky coincidence also helped her become the first staff photographer at Rolling Stone magazine, where she worked on its very first edition. Due to working for Rolling Stone she was able to photograph many famous musicians such as Jim Morrison of The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and many others performing and backstage.
In a London Times interview, Paul McCartney talks about John and Paul Recording, Abbey Roadand explains that:
Linda didn’t take a lot of pictures of The Beatles [- even though she was married to one of the members -], but she made the most of the opportunity when she was in the studio, usually at Abbey Road. She was very sensitive about not interrupting. She had this knack of not getting in the way. She had this great style where she would sit in the corner and just pull out her camera and take a couple of snaps and put it away. What I love about the shot of John and me is that it shows the great working relationship we had. It was a joy to work with John, particularly when we were writing and organising, as we were in this picture. I can’t recall exactly what we were doing – maybe a lyric, maybe a running order, maybe the medley on Abbey Road. At some point we had to organise what song would go where. I just love the joy of that picture – it’s beautifully composed. There were also the difficulties of the period – which show up in the film Let It Be – which I think have overshadowed the truth. It was a very heavy period. But this picture shows it wasn’t all like that. There was some light. And that’s how I remember our working relationship. Even though there were some tough moments, this was a great friendship.
Boys on the Beach, Barbados shows another subject matter in her work. She often used to take snapshots while on holidays with her family. This sharply focused image of a group of six young men looking out at the ocean is an elegant, sculptural portrait of the surfers. McCartney created a strong visual contrast by juxtaposing the silhouetted figures with the brightly lit white beach and the ocean waves. When first looking at the photograph the viewer’s gaze is drawn towards the young man leaning on his board on the right hand side of the image and the gaze follows along the edge of the beach towards the people situated in the background of the image. From there the gaze goes out onto the ocean towards the two boats and ends full-circle at the first figure.
McCartney is known for her animal-rights activism as well as being an outspoken vegetarian. She also promoted a vegetarian diet through her cookbooks,one of them is Linda’s Kitchen: Simple and Inspiring Recipes for Meatless Meals Her photograph Go Veggie shows that her devotion to vegetarianism is also in her photographic work. The photograph is powerful because it lets the viewers see something that they are not accustomed to seeing. Today, we are used to buying either a whole chicken or parts of a chicken at the grocery store. These chickens have all their feathers plucked and the heads and feet removed and sometimes the bones and skin removed as well. In that way, the consumers are not reminded of the actual animal they will eat, but are able to treat the chicken like a product to be consumed. The photograph seems to be taken of a butcher’s shop window with possibly a butcher on the lower left hand side of the image. When looking at this picture one is reminded of the whole ducks that are displayed in some restaurant windows.
In the same interview mentioned earlier Paul McCartney explains that:
For me, probably the saddest and most haunting photograph in [Linda’s] collection is the self-portrait she took in 1997, not long before she died in 1998, in Francis Bacon’s studio in South Kensington. Linda was a great art lover. She had studied art at college in Arizona and her father had a phenomenal collection. So she’d grown up with great art. She admired Francis Bacon greatly and had an opportunity through a friend to photograph his studio after he died. […] It was going – the entire contents – to Dublin. She went along and took some pictures. This one is a classic. With the cracked mirror it’s particularly eerie. It is a very strange but powerful picture. I’m not sure, but that looks like somebody’s death mask on the right of the picture.
Did you know that Linda was part of Paul McCartney’s band Wings and played the keyboards? What do you think of that? Do you think she should have concentrated on her photographic career instead?