Paul McCartney’s rediscovered photos show Beatlemania from the inside

London –

As one of the most filmed and photographed bands in history, can The Beatles really be seen in a new light?

that’s right. Britain’s National Portrait Gallery says Paul McCartney is offering a new perspective with an exhibition of photographs from the band’s perspective that captures the group’s rise to global fame. .

Gallery director Nicholas Cullinan said the exhibit, subtitled “Eye of the Storm,” is a chance to “see Beatlemania from the inside for the first time.”

The seeds for this exhibition were sown in 2020 when the lockdown project began. That year, McCartney unearthed 1,000 forgotten photos taken in 1963 and 1964, when the Fab Four went from rising British celebrity to global megastar. He and his team asked if the National Portrait Gallery would be interested in exhibiting them.

“I think you can probably guess our reaction,” Cullinan said Tuesday while introducing the exhibition to journalists in London.

The show includes 250 photographs shot in England, France and the United States, depicting the Beatles’ journey from the cramped dressing rooms of British provincial theaters to stadium shows and luxury hotels. .

“It was a whirlwind of madness that we lived through,” McCartney wrote in a note presented at the opening of the exhibition. “We were just wondering about the world and getting excited about the little things that make up our lives.”

Rosie Broadley, who curated the exhibition, said the gallery quickly realized that the collection was “more than just interesting photographs by celebrities.”

“It really tells an important story about cultural history, British cultural history and international cultural history,” she said. “This is the moment British culture took the world by storm for a while.”

The exhibit begins in late 1963, shortly after McCartney acquired a Pentax 35mm camera. Early black-and-white images include portraits of The Beatles, their parents, girlfriends, staff and his colleagues, including manager Brian Epstein.

Mr Broadley said the photos depicted “parochial post-war British celebrities”. Concerts in local cinemas alongside now-unknown bands like Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, and a 16-night variety-style Christmas night at London’s Finsbury Park Astoria. Shaw and so on.

Cullinan said these photos conveyed a “sense of intimacy” that professional photographs of the band lacked.

“This is the Beatles filmed peer-to-peer, not by paparazzi press photographers,” he said. “So there is real tenderness and vulnerability in these images.”

In January 1964, McCartney and his band took their cameras to Paris to capture the city at the height of French New Wave cool. While there, the Beatles learned that “I Want to Hold Your Hands” was a US No. 1 hit.

Within days, they were on a plane to New York and, on February 9, when 73 million people watched their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, everything was back to normal.

The US section of the exhibit shows the band’s increasingly frenetic life. Many of the shots were taken from planes, trains and chauffeured cars, showing crowds of screaming fans and lines of police. Occasionally, McCartney turned his lens to newspaper and magazine photographers watching him.

A striking shot was captured from the rear window of a car as the crowd chased the band through the streets of Manhattan. This scene was also reflected in the band’s first feature film, A Hard Day’s Night, produced later that year.

McCartney also took pictures of strangers, including a girl seen from a train window and a playful Miami airport ground worker.

The band’s final destination was Miami, where McCartney switched to color film. Broadley said the result was “like a Technicolor movie, like an Elvis movie.” Photos show John, Paul, George and Ringo swimming, sunbathing, water skiing and fishing. From his hotel window, McCartney filmed a fan writing “I love Paul” in giant letters on the sand.

McCartney, 81, spent hours discussing photos and memories with curators as he prepared for an exhibition to reopen the National Portrait Gallery after a three-year renovation.

The images had been stored on undeveloped negatives and contact sheets for decades, but McCartney had never seen them in large format until the gallery printed them.

The project was not without risks. McCartney admits that he is not a professional photographer, but neither was his late wife, Linda McCartney, nor his daughter, Mary McCartney. Some photos are blurry or hastily composited. But what it lacks in technology it makes up for in spontaneity.

Broadley said McCartney “was nervous about presenting something that was less formally structured and less focused.”

“But I think we convinced him that we liked them because of the stories they told,” she said. “It’s so nice to have people sitting with tea before the event.”

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