Linda McCartney Retrospective at the Walker Art Gallery review

Posted on 20 September 2020
By Dana Andersen
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For any art fans feeling downhearted by the current shift in freedoms, one place to seek solace and inspiration is the new Linda McCartney exhibition.

Presented as a retrospective, fans can explore her life through pictures, travelling through time and the world with a galaxy of Swinging Sixties stars. Linda’s own time on the road as part of Wings is well represented and all rounded off with the simple home life she and Paul created for their children.

Coming home to roost in Liverpool after visiting Vienna, Glasgow and Berlin, the exhibition featuring over 250 photographs is now wowing visitors to the Walker Art Gallery.

Curated by Paul and Mary McCartney, the exhibition presents a unique insight into Linda’s life, and how she perceived life – often capturing surreal magic moments in everyday mundane events, such as family bath times.

Linda had the desire and motivation of honing her craft to take snaps of things and events most people in the 70s and 80s wouldn’t risk wasting film on.

Now we take the luxury of taking unlimited photographs for granted now with smartphones, which makes Linda’s photographs a contemporary feel and more recognisable to younger generations.

Linda’s natural artistic curiosity is most stridently displayed while travelling. Possessing a natural talent to document her own human experience, as well as that of those around her.

Photographs of her trips to Liverpool with Paul are especially moving for those visiting the exhibition in their home city. Linda was fond of using natural barriers to frame her subjects, like the shape of their car window.

Some of the most touching moments come from previously unseen pictures of Paul and their family – including a shot of Paul leading an gang of Christmas Carollers in a sing along in Heswall on the Wirral.

Beatle fans will know of many stories about how Paul would take to a pub piano for an impromptu sing-a-long, but to see photographic evidence of a story yet untold, feels akin to discovering a priceless piece of ancient history.

As if you could forget for a minute that she was married into the most famous band of all time, Paul has recorded several sublime soundscapes, including Til We Drop featuring John Lennon’s voice.

There is also a powerful video, which Paul has directed of Linda’s photos of legendary psych rockers Grateful Dead, which is an experience you need in your life.

Even when photographing power houses of rock like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix or Aretha Franklin, Linda was able to find their most unguarded, human moments and capture them in photographs that are full of beautiful tone and detail.

This is especially apparent through the more unexpected shots, such as those of Frank Zappa, and Allen Ginsberg, who rarely look as unguarded and comfortable as they do in Linda’s lens.

Delving further into the photographs on display offers a view into the juxta-positional life the couple lived, screaming fans on one side, and a relatively normal, though certainly idyllic farm life on the other.

Presenting the idea that perhaps Linda was able to display and even bequeath some of that ‘normality’ to the celebrities she photographed.

Throughout the exhibition, visitors are able to gain a deeper understanding of Linda and the aims she fostered while taking pictures, through written placards and quotes, many from Paul or their children.

Some explain her process, such as how she would befriend the celebrities she was photographing to put them at ease, while others simple explain what was happening in the moment she captured.

Travelling through the exhibition, and through the years of Linda’s visual documentation, we are able to see her experiment with different types of photography, printing (including the mesmerising sun prints section) and developing, all while maintaining her love of natural light and often natural subjects.

Also deserving of special attention is the contact sheet and polaroid display, which show how Linda took time and a deep level of care with her photographs and printing process.

Visitors are treated to a display of Linda’s vintage cameras, diaries, and the various magazines she and her work were featured in.

Purple Revolver recommends seeing this show while you can. Wearing a face mask while poring over all these incredible photos of famous and free faces, only adds to the sense of surreal introspection we can all benefit from.

The exhibition will run until November 1st 2020, and tickets can be booked through the Walker Art Galleries website here