In full flight


PHOTOGRAPHY: Linda McCartney: Life in PhotographsEdited by Alison Castle. Taschen, 280pp. £44.99

YOU SAY Linda McCartney, I hear vegetarian sausages. But there was more to the American photographer who, in 1969, married Paul McCartney, then a quarter of The Beatles. She was the first woman to take a cover shot for Rolling Stonemagazine, with her portrait of Eric Clapton used on the front of the May 11th, 1968, issue. And this 280-page tribute to her work includes images of some of rock’n’roll’s most recognisable faces: Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel, The Who, The Doors, Neil Young, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Tim Buckley, an impossibly young Michael Jackson, Frank Zappa and The Grateful Dead.

“In those early pictures of musicians, they aren’t looking at a photographer,” writes Annie Leibovitz in her forward to Life in Photographs. “They’re in love with the woman with the camera. They’re flirting. Engaged.” Much of what captures the imagination in this collection of images is the candid and relaxed access to 1960s legends: a yawning Hendrix, a pensive Twiggy, a smoking Warren Beatty.

But the book is billed as a retrospective of McCartney’s life, the images chosen, more than 13 years after her death from cancer, in collaboration with Paul and their two daughters, Mary and Stella. As such, it is also filled with intimate shots of family life. The girls with buckets on their heads. Paul and their son, James, peaking out from a bath of bubbles. A kitchen window strewn with tiny rubber boots.

There are some photographs the book could do without, but whose inclusion was probably inevitable: Paul pouting in front of a hoarding in London; Paul pouting in front of the television; Paul pouting with a beard. But others, including the stunning colour cover shot of a coquettish-looking Paul (pout thankfully hidden) and a black-and-white image from 1968 of Paul and John Lennon sharing a laugh, sum up McCartney’s great strengths as a photographer: her eye for light and colour, and her ability to capture tender moments on film.

The FoolScottish Landscape

A good book of photographs can be like a private exhibition, something to be dusted down and referred to again and again for inspiration. And there is inspiration to be found here. But these kinds of tomes can be tricky to appraise, especially during a recession. Is the guts of €60 too much to pay for a book that can be flicked through in an hour?

Life in Photographshas a story to tell. It showcases a talented photographer. It gives an intimate peek into the always-irresistible Swinging Sixties. It has a sense of humour and lightness. But there is something in the collection that is almost too personal. Between the preamble written by the McCartneys about a wife and mother they obviously adored, and the family photographs that became Linda’s passion after marrying Paul, the memorialising can be a distraction from the work on show. But it has certainly kindled a curiosity about a talented artist that goes beyond veggie dinners.

Emma Somers is an Irish Timesjournalist and editor of the arts journal Punt