Paul McCartney talks about the arrival of Beatles photos at the Brooklyn Museum

They are now a collector’s treasure trove – Paul McCartney’s own photographs, taken sixty years ago, when the Beatles took Europe and America by storm: images of screaming fans (one holding a live monkey); Girl wearing a yellow bikini. Airport workers play air guitar, and unprotected moments are snatched from trains, planes and cars.

McCartney, now 81, doesn’t like to sit still and reminisce about the past, so he was chatting while driving home from his recording studio in Sussex, England. He said: “My American friends call these small, one-way corridors ‘weapon barrels,’ warning his interviewer that the signal might stop at any moment (and this is what actually happened). In the end, it took two days to complete a coherent conversation about the breakout period when the Beatles went viral, captured in the traveling exhibition “Photographs of Paul McCartney 1963-1964: Eyes of the Storm,” which includes 250 of his shots. . Currently he is in Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia.and comes to Brooklyn Museum May 3 – August 18. (Don’t be surprised if the artist appears at the opening.)

It was McCartney archivist Sarah Brown who found 1,000 photographs taken by the musician over a 12-week period – from December 7, 1963 to February 21, 1964 – in the artist’s library.

“I thought the pictures were lost,” he said. ”In the 1960s it was very easy. Often the doors were left open. We’ll invite the fans in.” Even the recording studio wasn’t a safe place. “I was taking my daughter Mary to the British Library to show her where to look for her exams, and in one of the display cabinets I saw a lyric sheet for ‘Yesterday,'” he said. A sticky-fingered biographer pulled the original from their studio.

“His photographs show us what it was like to look through his eyes as the Beatles were conquering the world,” said Rosie Broadley, a senior curator at the National Portrait Gallery in London, where the exhibition opened.

McCartney won an art prize at school and took up photography with his brother Mike (who later became a professional photographer). He switched to a Pentax 35mm SLR camera when the Beatles became a hit.

“It was the most advanced handheld camera of its era. “It would be like owning the latest iPhone today,” said Darius Hymes, international head of photography at Christie’s, adding: “We were all surprised by Paul’s cutting-edge eye and awareness of trends in the visual arts.” The Snapshot The yellow bikini is like a stunning mix of Stephen Shore, William Eggleston and William Klein.

The Beatles traveled with a flock of photographers and were not shy about collecting tips. McCartney admitted that some of his first shots at the show were a bit vaguely focused. “I console myself with the fact that one of my favorite photographers, Julia Margaret Cameron“I also like soft focus,” he said.

“His images improve as he practices,” Broadley noted. The exhibition and accompanying book take visitors on a whirlwind journey through six cities starting in Liverpool and London, and ending in Miami. Photographs of the British leg are displayed in small, “spartan” walnut frames, to suggest that Britain was still suffering from the post-war recession. The Fab Four may look nervous in these photos, but they’ve already reached stardom on their home turf, having had three No. 1 singles and met the Queen.

Shortly after performing at the Olympia in Paris, along with Sylvie Vartan, they heard that the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was No. 1 on the American charts and they rushed to New York. Their crowning moment in America was their live television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, where they sang five propulsive pop songs – an event watched by 73 million people.

In Miami, McCartney’s photographs sparkle with Kodachrome colors and the new celebrities seem to be thriving in glamorous new surroundings: lounging by the pool, sipping scotch, riding motorboats. By April, The Beatles’ songs were in the top five of the US Billboard charts.

“It’s innocence,” he said, looking at the photos, adding: “I think it was more fun than it was before. We worked probably 360 days a year. It was a very short golden period. After two and a half years, the Beatles stopped doing With its tours, the logistics, the screaming and the armored cars have become a nightmare.

Like most successful artists past retirement age, McCartney suffers from projectitis. He is working on a new album with the producer Andrew Watt (“Hackney Diamonds”), and has just released a 50th anniversary remaster From the Paul McCartney & Wings classic song “Band on the Run”. “His live shows are still so high-voltage that one half expects them to burst into flames,” says the Irish poet. Paul Muldoon In McCartney’s last book he wrote, “Words: 1956 to the Present.”

His next project is to organize an exhibition selling some of his photographs. “It’s a process I love,” he said, describing the joy of organizing. “I’ve done that many times with Linda’s work” (referring to his first wife, photographer Linda Eastman). He shares his current home with his wife Nancy Shevell, decorated with pictures of Linda and Mary, although strangely not his own. But this may change. “The sale might encourage me to buy some for myself,” he said.

Below are edited excerpts of our conversation, in which he talks about the popular images in the exhibition.

My favorite pictures are of John and George. There is a huge emotional side to them. No one else can take this photo. John was a great character. A completely different kind of guy from the other boys I know. We met at a village celebration. He was playing with his band. He was a year and a half older than me (and) my first boyfriend who wore glasses. He was always taking them off and polishing them. I found it fascinating. He would take it off in public, which left him half-blind. On stage, he stood there and stared into the darkness. Maybe it helped him focus on playing.

We started out playing in really bad little clubs and pubs in Liverpool and Hamburg. In Germany, we slept in a small room, with the British flag as a blanket. Back in England, things started to look up a little. We played dance halls, got radio work and then worked in television. It was like walking up the stairs for us. What no one realized was that by this time (seven months after the Beatles had first reached number one in the UK charts), we were already fully formed monsters. We came from the post-war years to a Britain that was now feeling cheerful for the first time in decades, and we ate it.

Maybe our Pentax cameras were a gift. There was a lot of artistic black and white photography at that time. We were impressed David Bailey (who had a Pentax camera), Don McCullenan amazing war photographer, and Norman Parkinson. When he would take our picture, he would say “give me big eyes” and we would play together. I like to shoot through a mirror because things look good in the mirror. We all smoke. Smoking gave us a nice and grown-up feeling. We were very young. I was only 21 years old.

Our goal has always been to have fun. I think this communicates itself and has become part of the reason why we are so popular. It’s just a trait of Liverpool people to laugh. (Paul took this shot of Ringo during a photo shoot with… dizo hoffman, One of the court photographers.) Dezo was a very nice man. He will give us hints about aperture and all the different things needed to take a good photo.

Here’s a picture of Beatles fans behaving as they should. … I will go crazy! We didn’t know what we were going to get in America; If anyone comes to meet us. On the plane, the pilot radioed and told him that there were groups of fans waiting. (More than 4,000 screaming girls were repelled by 200 policemen.) Manhattan was big, tall, noisy, and brash. There were stories of fans breaking into our room at the Plaza Hotel. These were more stories than reality. Maybe we wish that would happen.

We made television in England, so we’re used to it; Cameras, lights and all that. What we didn’t really know was how important Ed Sullivan was. It was the big one. There were two stagehands waiting for us to pull the curtains so we could continue, and one of them said, ‘You’re nervous?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. Not really.’ “You should be,” he says. “There’s 73 million people watching the movie.” Then I get nervous. But if you watch this performance, I can’t believe how confident we look. The weird thing about the theater is Ringo’s (unstable) drum pad. I can’t believe it. Find out how he got there.

New York journalists thought they were very smart and I’m sure they were used to dealing with stupid pop stars. We had a lot of fun with them, especially at the press conference at JFK (airport). We gave it the best we got. It has become a game of who can come up with the smartest answer. Often it was the truth. Someone asked George: Have you ever cut your hair? He said. “Yes, yesterday.” He had gone to the barber the day before.

We loved the music and performance. It beats working in a factory. A few years before these pictures appeared, we were all fully immersed in working-class life in Liverpool. I’m fascinated by working-class people like this guy (a railroad worker who was arrested from a train on its way to Washington, D.C.). Working class people are the smartest people I have ever met. My cousin Bert (Danaher) was an insurance salesman, but he also compiled crossword puzzles for The Guardian and The Times. The photography I like is spontaneous, like the work of the great (Henri) Cartier-Bresson. It was nice to take shots while running. We didn’t have time to think.

Some of my favorite photos are of fans. I really like this photo of a young girl in a hijab looking zen-like at my camera. I took it up and didn’t look at it again until I had it printed (for a National Portrait Gallery exhibition). When we started to zoom in on the images, we were able to see all the individual characters. In one photo, at the Miami airport, there is a woman carrying a monkey. You won’t get past health and safety these days.

This is George living life in Miami. (McCartney turned to Kodachrome to record the group’s antics in Florida.) Miami felt like a wonderland. These photos were taken at a time when we were all young and beautiful. I mean these boys are good looking, you know! From that perspective, I feel very fortunate not only to have known these guys, but to have worked with them and done great things with them. I feel very lucky.

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