Today, the V&A has announced the launch of its new Photography Centre which includes a major gift of 63 photographs by Linda McCartney, generously donated by Sir Paul McCartney and his family. The photographs trace Linda’s career across four decades, from the 1960s to the 1990s.
The collection encompasses portraits of music legends The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Jimi Hendrix, as well as pictures of flora and fauna, and intimate personal portraits, including the McCartney family on holiday. The gift marks the first time that a selection of Linda’s original Polaroids has ever been made available to the public.
Linda embraced myriad photographic processes and techniques, and the gift includes lithographs, bromide prints, cyanotype prints, platinum prints, photogravures, hand-painted prints, contact sheets and Polaroids. These pictures join the National Collection of the Art of Photography, held at the V&A – one of the largest and most important collections of historic and contemporary photographs in the world.
Her approach to photography was instinctive, believing it to be much more than a technical skill. She was inspired by the photographs of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange and the way in which she believed they captured the character of each subject. She took this approach in her own photography, especially in her portraits of rock and roll musicians. Linda was keen to go beyond the public persona, to get under the skin of her famous sitters, and capture “every blemish, every bit of beauty, every emotion”.
In 1967, Linda was voted US Female Photographer of the Year. The following year, she became the first female photographer to have her work featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with her portrait of Eric Clapton. In 1974, both her life in front of and behind the camera converged, when she appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone with her husband, Sir Paul McCartney. She was the first person to not only have photographed Rolling Stone’s cover but to have appeared on the magazine’s front cover herself.
A selection of Linda McCartney’s photographs will go on display in the V&A’s new Photography Centre, opening to the public on 12 October 2018. Designed by David Kohn Architects, the centre will more than double the space devoted to photography in the museum and display a rotating selection of historic and contemporary photographs telling the story of the medium from the daguerreotype to the digital.