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Friday, May 23, 2008

The Song She Was Singing

The last portion of our trip to England featured a Friday night reading from Fab Four FAQ at Waterstone’s near Goodge Street in London. This event, attentively attended by an attentive group of attendees, featured some interesting back-and-forth about Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, and Yoko.

Following that, Fiona from Waterstone’s invited Cecilia and I to the pub for a drink, where we met several of her co-workers and had some nice conversation about Syd Barrett, MPL Productions, Madness, and the quality of British crisps. Later, we joined our good friend Andre McLean and his family for dinner up in Camden Town. Yum.

The next day—my only truly work-free day in England—we decided to hit some art galleries. First on the agenda was the Linda McCartney photo exhibit at 5 Savile Row, just next door to the original Apple offices.

I always knew that Linda was a quality photographer of musicians; her Linda’s Sixties book is excellent, particularly the empathetic portraits of Janis Joplin, Traffic, and, yes, the Fabs. But I was not prepared for what I’d feel seeing this exhibit. Not only did Paul put together a fine memorial to Linda’s talent, he, his daughter Mary, and gallery owner James Hyman also created—over a nearly three-year period—a poignant tribute to her heart.

Some of the photos here are familiar, but many are previously unseen, either family portraits (Heather dashing off as Paul laughs, little James jumping from a truck on the family farm, Paul rolling a joint in Jamaica in 1972) or still-lifes. You get from these photos a good sense of Linda’s perspective, feel for the natural order of things, and excellent timing. She knew how to plan a shot and when to press the shutter.

One photo in particular nearly reduced me to tears. In 1997, not long before her death, she went to artist Francis Bacon’s studio and set up a self-portrait. Ghostly thin and shorn of most of her hair, she photographed herself, blurred, in the reflection of a broken mirror. This photo is almost inexpressibly beautiful; it left me once again amazed at the sheer power of art.

Linda McCartney was a great woman. Not only was she an accomplished photographer, animal rights activist, and entrepreneur, she also brought peace and stability to one of the world’s great musicians and became a decent enough musician in her own right--along with perhaps her most important achievement: raising what appears to be a remarkably functional show-biz family. How many people can live in the constant eye of celebrity and claim that?

We’ll wrap up the trip in my next post. Peace.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think Linda ever got the respect she deserved. She was an amazing photographer, and trying to be an artist in Paul's shadow must have been heart wrenching at times. I adore her cookbook, and always respected her animal rights activism. Her ability to capture the very famous and often peculiar subjects at just the right time was a gift for sure.

I suppose this is why I felt so awful when Paul remarried so soon after her passing - I never really understood that because the person he choose seemed so very different from Linda.

Anyway, I would have loved to seen that exhibit - it sounds amazing.


6:57 PM, May 23, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I heard Paul is going to write a book about Linda, that would be nice.

3:05 PM, June 26, 2008


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