As Beatlemania spread across the globe during the early 1960s, the Beatles found themselves in a whirlwind of flashing cameras and suddenly their faces were everywhere. Until now, however, we have relatively little idea of what the experience was like from their perspective. For the first time, Paul McCartney is showing the public over 250 photographs that he took between November 1963 to February 1964 in a show that has inaugurated the temporary exhibition galleries at the newly renovated National Portrait Gallery.
Most of the photographs are either of McCartney himself or his bandmates John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, and were taken at a time when the Beatles shot to fame in the United States. In one series, they are shown rehearsing for a pivotal TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 that was watched by an audience of 73 million. That same month, frenzied fans are caught on camera chasing the group’s car down West 58th Street in New York and McCartney also recorded a series of personal mementos from a beach holiday in Miami.
“Looking at these photos now, decades after they were taken, I find there’s a sort of innocence about them,” said McCartney in a press statement. “Everything was new to us at this point. But I like to think I wouldn’t take them any differently today. They now bring back so many stories, a flood of special memories, which is one of the many reasons I love them all, and know that they will always fire my imagination.”
Many of the photographs were recently printed for the first time, having been left as negatives in McCartney’s personal archive and only rediscovered by the musician in 2020. Presented alongside McCartney’s own reflections, they offer a fresh behind-the-scenes lens on the famous story of how four young men from Liverpool became global superstars and redefined the meaning of celebrity for the modern era.
“Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm” runs through October 1 before traveling across the pond to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, where it will run from December 5, 2023, to April 7, 2024. A book of photographs paired with McCartney’s recollections from the period has also been published by Penguin Press in the U.K. and W.W. Norton in the U.S.
Check out images from the exhibition below.
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