The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - ME­LANIE ABRAMS

WHEN LINDA East­man (later McCart­ney) be­came the first woman to shoot a Rolling Stone mag­a­zine front cover with a portrait of Eric Clap­ton in 1968, she could never have imag­ined that 50 years later her im­ages would hang in the Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum, along­side other iconic Jewish pho­tog­ra­phers and more, recog­nised as part of the medium’s his­tory.

Thir­teen works by McCart­ney will be dis­played in the V&A’s new photography cen­tre open­ing on Oc­to­ber 12, se­lected from a wider gift of 63 pho­tos do­nated by her fam­ily ear­lier this year.

Taken be­tween the 1960s and 1990s, the im­ages in­clude the Bea­tles in Brian Ep­stein’s Bel­gravia home cel­e­brat­ing the launch of their fa­bled al­bum, Sgt Pep­per’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; The Yard­birds seem­ingly caught un­awares on a Lon­don street, watch­ing a passer-by and Twiggy off mod­el­ling duty dur­ing a visit to the McCart­ney home af­ter Linda and Paul’s daugh­ter, Mary was born in 1969.

“In all her work we see free­dom of move­ment, en­ergy, nat­u­ral­ness and spon­tane­ity,” says Su­sanna Brown, the V&A’s cu­ra­tor of pho­to­graphs who se­lected the works on dis­play, adding, “noth­ing is forced or posed.”

As Mary McCart­ney, now a pho­tographer, once told the Tele­graph, her mother would have the cam­era with her but wouldn’t hold it up in some­one’s face for a long time, so she wouldn’t be click­ing all around them.

Her ap­proach would be to chat with her sub­ject, take a snap, put the cam­era down, so there was never time to pose or feel self-con­scious.

There are charm­ing fam­ily snap­shots like the black and white shot where Paul McCart­ney stands on a fence while their chil­dren James and Stella play.

Ac­cord­ing to pho­tographer Jil­lian Edel­stein whose own work in­cludes por­traits, fam­ily and pho­to­jour­nal­ism: “She is cre­at­ing a doc­u­men­tary mo­ment where the com­po­si­tion is per­fect – as Paul bal­ances, James jumps and Stella is en­grossed in her own world.”

Yet McCart­ney’s photography is of­ten over­looked. Even though she was named US Fe­male Pho­tographer of the Year in 1967, thanks to her rock star por­traits, two years later she mar­ried Paul McCart­ney and be­came bet­ter known as his wife.

Now, at last, her work is be­ing placed by V&A in prime po­si­tion in the new cen­tre, which charts the devel­op­ment of photography from the 1830s to to­day. The new gallery will also show­case some of the most iconic 20th cen­tury Jewish pho­tog­ra­phers who, ac­cord­ing to the mu­seum’s se­nior cu­ra­tor of pho­to­graphs, Martin Barnes, make up a third of this new cen­tre.

Pic­tures on show in­clude Man Ray’s ex­per­i­men­tal rayo­graphs, Robert Capa’s sear­ing war pic­tures, Mary Ellen Mark’s pic­tures of mis­fits, Gisèle Fre­und’s in­ci­sive por­trai­ture and Frank Hor­vat’s ground-break­ing doc­u­men­tary take on fash­ion.

There is a “po­etic tra­di­tion” amongst Jewish pho­tog­ra­phers that is “un­flinch­ing and hon­est” which McCart­ney shares, says Barnes, cit­ing her emo­tive shot of BB King’s per­for­mance in full flight where his gui­tar notes and voice can al­most be heard or her pic­tures of weary Sussex coal­men.

Brown says the mu­seum is high­light­ing McCart­ney’s di­ver­sity, dif­fer­ent tech­niques and how she ex­per­i­mented with pro­cesses in­clud­ing Po­laroids, bro­mides and cyan­otypes, a print­ing process that pro­duces bright blue im­ages on white pa­per discovered in 1842.

Un­known work is on dis­play for the first time, re­veal­ing her quirky take on ev­ery­day life and an eye for

the ab­stract. Con­sider the Po­laroids of dis­carded toys, san­dals with red bal­loons in­side and a hooded fig­ure walk­ing out of shot; among oth­ers that have never be­fore been out of the fam­ily archive.

“A lot of her Po­laroids are quiet, hum­ble still lifes,” says Brown, “which brings our at­ten­tion to hum­ble things and el­e­vates them to wor­thy of be­ing pho­tographed.”

Her work­ing pro­cesses are laid bare too, for ex­am­ple a con­tact sheet from a fa­mous Jimi Hen­drix photo ses­sion from 1968. “Her mark­ings on the sheet shows her process of selec­tion and how she cap­tured his sub­tle changes in fa­cial ex­pres­sion and ges­ture,” ex­plains Brown, and “we see her de­ci­sion mak­ing process of choos­ing the shot that best en­cap­su­lates Jimi and shows the full range of her abil­i­ties.”

Show­busi­ness was in her blood long be­fore she be­came Linda McCart­ney. Born in New York in 1941 to Ashke­nazi Jewish par­ents, her fa­ther, Lee East­man (for­merly Leopold Vail Ep­stein) was an en­ter­tain­ment lawyer whose clients in­cluded band leader, Tommy Dorsey and artist, Mark Rothko. Her mother, Louise Sara Lind­ner, was from a retailing fam­ily which founded a ma­jor depart­ment store in Cleve­land, Ohio.

Linda East­man mar­ried and had a daugh­ter, Heather, but di­vorce in 1965 led to her self-taught ca­reer in photography as she be­gan work­ing for Town & Coun­try Mag­a­zine and went on shoots with her pro­fes­sional pho­tographer boyfriend, David Dal­ton. Her big break came in 1967 when she was the only pho­tographer al­lowed on to a boat on the Hud­son River in New York where the Rolling Stones were per­form­ing. She also be­came the unof­fi­cial house pho­tographer of the leg­endary Fil­imore East con­cert Hall in New York’s Lower East Side where she pho­tographed Aretha Franklin, Bob Dy­lan and The Doors among oth­ers. Run by the Jewish rock pro­moter, Bill Gra­ham, the venue, open from 1968 to 1971, fea­tured some of the big­gest rock acts of its time.

As a fan, says Barnes, “Linda was able to get close to the mu­si­cians and in­vade their per­son­al­i­ties and per­for­mance in a nat­u­ral way.” McCart­ney her­self spoke of al­ways try­ing to dig un­der­neath the “ve­neer” of celebrity sub­jects.

Mar­ry­ing a Bea­tle led to new op­por­tu­ni­ties out­side photography, which may also ex­plain why her photography was over­shad­owed. She was part of her hus­band’s 1970’s rock group, Wings, be­came an an­i­mal rights ac­tivist and a veg­e­tar­ian food en­tre­pre­neur in 1991, un­til she died of breast can­cer in 1998 aged 56.

The V&A has ded­i­cated a huge, pur­pose built show­case to give her work promi­nence, says Brown, for up to two years as the dis­play ro­tates with other pic­tures in the archive.

Close by is one of Irv­ing Penn’s cig­a­rette im­ages, Camel Pack, Mark Co­hen’s close up Philadel­phia street scenes as well as Martin Parr’s hu­mor­ous take on Bri­tish life which, says Barnes, in­te­grates McCart­ney’s work with pho­to­jour­nal­ism, street photography and con­cep­tual fine art photography.

“From my per­spec­tive it’s re­ally good work, hav­ing ac­cess to the right peo­ple and hav­ing the right man­ner, courtesy and busi­ness ap­proach and be­ing able to pub­li­cise the work,” he con­cludes.

The V&A Photography Cen­tre opens Oc­to­ber 12 2018


Linda McCart­ney, pho­tographed by Paul McCart­ney in 1969


(from left) Paul and Mary, Scot­land, 1970; the new V&A cen­tre; Jimi Hen­drix, 1968


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