The Walker Art Gallery’s hotly anticipated Linda McCartney Retrospective is due to finally open to the public today after a four-month delay driven by the coronavirus pandemic.
But according to lead curator Ann Bukantas, the wide-ranging exhibition, featuring more than 200 images, will be well worth the wait.
Not only that but it promises to ‘surprise’ people who only know McCartney – who died of cancer in 1998 - as a performer, animal rights activist and advocate of vegetarianism.
She says: “I think there will be people who know, or has some awareness, that she was a photographer or took photographs but there may be people who weren’t aware that she was a professional photographer and how far back that career goes.
“There are around half-a-million objects which have survived in the archive so that shows just absolutely how prolific she was.
“But also, some of the photographs she took, particularly in the 60s, are the definitive photographs of some of those musicians. I found myself doing a double take as I’ve also learned so much about her, working on this project.”
McCartney was born Linda Eastman in Westchester County, New York State, in 1941. She became interested in photography while studying at the University of Arizona, an interest which was further developed by watching how a boyfriend – a professional photographer – worked.
She began to take photos of some of the most famous faces of the time and in 1968, she became the first female photographer to have a cover photograph on Rolling Stone magazine, with her portrait of Eric Clapton.
The retrospective is built on the framework of an exhibition of archival material – including photos and contact sheets - first shown at the Kelvingrove gallery in Glasgow last year.
But Walker Art Gallery experts have worked closely with Sarah Brown, curator of the huge McCartney archive, to bring together a much wider selection of artefacts and exhibits – not least candid family photographs from various visits to Liverpool and Wirral.
Plans were already well-advanced for the show when the Walker was forced to close its doors at the start of lockdown in March, and most of the exhibition remains as it was planned, although with one or two more interactive elements such as touch screens changed to fit in with Covid-19 safeguards.
The exhibition is designed around themes, starting with an introduction and self-portraiture, then moving on to McCartney’s 1960s shots of famous faces including the Stones and the Beatles.
There is also a section showcasing her passion for animals and nature, and examples of her experimental photographic work, followed by candid and intimate shots of McCartney family life, snaps taken during visits to Liverpool and Wirral, and life in Scotland as well as scenes that caught her photographer’s eye on the road touring with Wings.
There is also a film screened in the 1960s section, and music composed by Paul McCartney elsewhere in the exhibition.
Linda's daughter Mary, herself a professional photographer, says: “What makes this exhibition unique and special is the Liverpool room. A little gem of a room with pictures that mum took in Liverpool through the years as I was growing up.
"Liverpool holds a really special place for all of us. But she really embraced it as a city and loved the people there.”
Ann Bukantas adds: “The photographs of Liverpool and Wirral have never been exhibited before and they’re wonderful. But then there are a lot of wonderful things in this exhibition and a lot to see and take in.
“When I went to see it in Glasgow, I came out with my mind blown!”
The Linda McCartney Retrospective is at the Walker Art Gallery from August 8 to November 1. Tickets are £9 HERE
Photos: Top - Launch of St Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band at Brian Epstein's House 1967.
Above: Self-portrait, Abbey Road Studios 1975.
All photos © Paul McCartney / Photographer: Linda McCartney