The Unseen Polaroids of Linda McCartney

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Linda McCartney The Polaroid Diaries Taschen Paul McCartney
Photo by Linda McCartney © Paul McCartney

The Polaroid Diaries is a newly published monograph of rough-around-the-edges shots of the McCartneys’ life, taken by the late Linda McCartney from the 1970s to the 1990s

Wings may have been a band on the run, but Paul McCartney also made it a point to squeeze in a bit of downtime every now and then. When he wasn’t busy cranking out hit records, packing stadiums, and spending time in the slammer for drug possession, Paul, as a book of posthumously published Polaroids by his then-wife Linda shows, was just an ordinary bloke who liked to horse around with his kids and try his hand at drawing flowers.

Unlike the sumptuous Life in Photographs monograph, released by Taschen in 2011 and which served as a testament to Linda’s prowess as one of the foremost rock and roll photographers of her generation, The Polaroid Diaries paints a candid picture of quotidian life at the McCartneys’. At their rustic Scottish idyll in Campbeltown, Paul – mustachios, mullets, and all – can be seen playing dress-up in a Bobby’s hat, waiting to catch a baby James dangling from a suspended beam, and enjoying a serene moment with handfuls of chicks. Joining Paul and James in their bucolic adventures are daughters Stella, Mary, and Heather, as well as the ‘lovely Linda’ herself; and, while the McCartneys are indubitably the focus of the book, other sundry figures – such as Ronnie Wood, Willem De Kooning, Ringo Starr, and Johnny Depp, as well as a host of unknown ‘passers by’ – make colourful cameos throughout.

As one would expect of Polaroids, McCartney’s are rough around the edges, overexposed, and deliciously impromptu. “[In] many of her photos,” says Paul in one of the book’s introductory texts, “it’s just that one click. You’ve got to recognise when a great photo is happening in front of you. And then you’ve got to snap it at exactly the right moment... She did that so many times that it always impressed me.” To emphasise their naïveté, Linda’s photographs have only been arranged on the basis of chronology; taking the reader in and out of, among other places, Campbeltown, Lagos, Tucson, and Sussex at the flip of a page, the only common denominators in this faded miscellany are questionable hair styles, livestock, and brown sauce. By no means intended as a primer on Linda’s artistic practice, the value of The Polaroid Diaries rather lies in the unfiltered intimacy with icons either gone or largely inaccessible that it affords. Macca-philes need no longer worry about breaking in through the bathroom window.

Linda McCartney: The Polaroid Diaries is out now, published by Taschen.