‘I was into photography, but she was better’

'I was into photography, but she was better'



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Did you know that legendary Beatle Paul McCartney’s first wife was a professional photographer? And a brilliant one at that! Linda McCartney (1941-1998), born Linda Eastman, was the first-ever female photographer to shoot a cover image for Rolling Stone magazine – with an image of Eric Clapton. She was a renowned music photographer in her own right covering the early New York doo-wop scene.

The Linda McCartney Retrospective is an exhibition opening this week at the University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography, and has been curated by Paul McCartney and their daughter Mary McCartney, who is now also a photographer and documentary filmmaker, to showcase Linda’s entire career from 1965 to 1997.

Students at Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography had the chance to interview Paul McCartney about Linda, and his responses provide a great insight into her life and career, as well as her duties as a working professional photographer, wife, and mother of four. Paul is quoted saying, “Linda was a great photographer and loved it so much that she would always find a way.”

“After we got married, her photography started to focus on family life with the kids, horses, countryside and landscapes. Whatever situation she was in she would use it for her art,” shares McCartney in response to a student question about which area of photography excited Linda most. 

“At one point she heard about cyanotypes and became really fascinated by the whole idea of printing photos herself. She loved treating the paper haphazardly and the whole process of putting it out on the balcony in the sun to develop: she thought it was magic. So, I would say she was excited about all her photography, because it was her life.”

Paul McCartney’s lost photographs of The Beatles are exhibited

“Linda had a pretty wide knowledge of art. That was one of the things we both had in common when we first met”, says Paul McCartney. “I was enjoying people like Magritte, which impressed her. One of my big show-off moments was asking, ‘Have you seen my Magritte?’”  According to him, she was fascinated with all areas of photography and had a knack for creative hacks. 

“She started off with a Nikon camera, and there was a technique where she would pull off a little piece of the Kodak film box and pop it into a little slot at the back of the camera to remind herself what film she was on. A clever little trick!”

The first person ever to have both photographed a Rolling Stone magazine cover, and appear on it herself in 1974, Linda McCartney was highly renowned for the work she put into her career as both a photographer and musician, founding the band Wings where she performed vocals and keyboard, alongside Paul. 

She was voted as the US Female Photographer of the Year in 1967, and received the Distinguished Photographers Award from ‘Women In Photography’ in 1987, and even appeared on an episode of The Simpsons called ‘Lisa the Vegetarian’ with her husband Paul McCartney in 1995, the same year she was sadly diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Linda McCartney had the ultimate career that any music photographer (and most likely photographers in general) would no doubt be envious of. She began her interest in photography in the early 1960s after majoring in Art History at The University of Arizona in Tucson, the same university where the latest exhibition of her life’s work is being held. 

Linda dabbled in artistic styles that involved creating cyanotypes and salt prints, Cibrachrome prints, and mastered many different photographic techniques over the years from photogravure still lifes, platinum print landscapes, and Polaroid transfers. She released several photo books and exhibitions showcasing this format. 

The Linda McCartney Retrospective exhibition will showcase 176 photos, running until August 05, 2023, and can be visited at the University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography. 

You may also be interested in the best camera settings for live music photography, as well as how to get started in live music photographyas advised by pro photographer Christie Goodwin. 

• Get your images ready to enter into the Abbey Road Studios’ Music Photography Awards this year, and get some inspiration from our interview with iconic music photographer Denis O’Regan.