“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…” — Linda McCartney
Linda McCartney only took two classes in photography. She attended night school studying art history at the University of Arizona. Her inspirations were by photographers Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston and later Edward Steichen. Photo history was one of her passions. She created cyanotype prints as an homage to Henry Fox Talbot. She explored other alternative processes and made thousands of Polaroid prints.
Her big break
She attended a party for the Rolling Stones aboard the Sea Panther on the Hudson River and documented the happenings and the band. At the time she was a receptionist at Town and Country magazine. The editors were so impressed with her intimate candid photos that they published her Rolling Stone pictures as an editorial. Her career was born.
Linda was the house photographer at New York’s Filmore East where she photographed iconic artists including Frank Zappa, B.B. King, Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix. She captured The Doors, Cream, The Beach Boys, The Who, The Kinks, Traffic and the Byrds. She became the first woman to have the cover of Rolling Stone when her photo of Eric Clapton appeared on the May 11, 1967, issue. She was named U.S. Female Photographer of the Year in 1967.
She was on assignment in London shooting the “Swinging Sixties” when she met Paul McCartney at the Bag O’Nails club. Then they met again at the release of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band party at Beatles manager Brian Epstein’s home. Linda married Paul a year later.
Linda played on the album Ram and followed up as part of the on-stage band as keyboardist and vocalist in Wings. She documented the travel and performances as well as behind-the-scenes.
Linda’s photography helped champion her causes — the anti-fur lobby, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The Great Ormand Street and The Hammersmith Hospital, The British Dyslexia Association and Rye Child to name but some.
Photography and motion
She was a prolific photographer. Her work covered family life, nature and the world, landscape, interiors and portraits. Her 1977 song inspired director Oscar Grillo to make an animated short of the same name. It earned him the Palme d’ Or award at Cannes. Other short films were “Oriental Nightfish” and “Wide Prairie.” Paul directed a “photofilm” about the Grateful Dead using her photographs.
Linda and Paul had four children, Heather, Mary, Stella and James. She regarded her children as her greatest achievement.
Linda McCartney died from breast cancer.
Read more mini-biographies of influential photographers on Photofocus.