Looking back at Linda McCartney’s candid images of The Beatles and other artists from the 60’s
Linda Eastman, who would later go on to marry Beatle Paul McCartney, was a notable music and fashion photographer before her vegetarianism made her a household name.
Photographing some incredibly talented people such as Aretha Franklin, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and Twiggy, Linda made history when her portrait of Eric Clapton became the first Rolling Stone cover shot by a woman.
Clearly a marvellous talent, the images below show not only her artistic edge and desired angle but offer a glimpse of candid normality of a band and family who can sometimes feel so unattainable.
In a 1994 interview with the BBC, Linda opened up about her role as a photographer, how she got her break and the subjects she had to work with.
Having been taught by her mentor Hazel Archer in Tuscon, Arizona Linda Eastman got her break when she jumped at the chance to photograph The Rolling Stones. She said: “When the Rolling Stones were trying to get publicity for themselves, when they were touring over here, they sent Town & Country an invitation which I opened and put in my drawer and thought, “Well, I’ll go to that one!” Someone came up to me and said “Well, we just don’t have room for all the photographers and all the journalists so you will be the photographer.” I thought “Oh my god, I’m not really a photographer, does she know?” But I bluffed my way, I mean I didn’t bluff it, I figured it’s her choice.”
“So, I got on the boat and had a lot of film with me and really enjoyed taking pictures. I think my only worry was that the pictures wouldn’t turn out, in truth… 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, so it wasn’t just the Rolling Stones, it was the whole thing.”
Her varied subjects include some notable artists. One that stuck in her mind was Aretha Franklin. She told the BBC: “Aretha Franklin. You know it was quite a buzz. You wouldn’t think Aretha, this great soul singer, would agree to dress in fashion, but she was great, so great. And we met at the Hilton hotel in Los Angeles and she was in tears, and she was sort of drinking vodka and she was just a mess, so depressed. She had this big manila envelope of money, paying off the band, and she was going through really bad times.
“I took pictures of her, really a beautiful face, with these sort of tears and everything, and the sadness was amazing.”
When talking about her technique she offered a counter-argument: “I think you just feel it 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.
“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. ”
And no interview with Linda was ever complete without mentioning The Beatles. But how did she get to meet a band at the height of their powers? “When I came to England, I wanted to photograph the Beatles, and Stevie Winwood, who had since left The Spencer Davis Group and started a group called Traffic. So that was great.”
“And then The Beatles I wanted to photograph as well. So I took my portfolio over to Hilly House, their office, and Brian Epstein’s assistant said: “Fine, you can leave your portfolio and we’ll get back to you.” So after about two or three days he got back to me saying: “Oh yes, Brian loved your photographs, and yes you may photograph The Beatles. They’re releasing an album called Sergeant Pepper, and they are doing a press thing at Brian’s house and you can be one of the photographers. And, by the way, Brian loved your photo of Brian Jones and one of the ones of Keith Moon.” I said, he can have them! So that’s how that happened, too, I got to photograph The Beatles, so my dreams came true.”