Stella, Paul and Mary on Linda McCartney
Thirteen years after Linda's death from breast cancer, the intensely private McCartney family pays tribute to her by sharing the stories behind her photographs.
By Elisa Lipsky-Karasz
By Elisa Lipsky-Karasz
Linda McCartney is remembered for many things--her animal-rights activism and her part in Wings, with husband Paul--but what her family hopes we will remember most is her photography. This spring, Paul and their daughters Stella and Mary are celebrating her legacy with a new book, Linda McCartney: Life in Photographs, which reveals many never-before-published images of the McCartney family and the Beatles as well as photos of '60s rock icons and the English countryside where the children spent their early years. "I think in some ways marrying me tended to overshadow Linda's work as a photographer," Paul says. He's righted this wrong by poring over her archive of more than 200,000 images, from which he and their children (daughter Heather and son James are also prominently featured) selected their favorites: a young Mick Jagger and Brian Jones lounging on a yacht, the Beatles working on Abbey Road, Michael Jackson on the McCartney farm in Sussex, a baby-faced Kate Moss and Johnny Depp, and endless private family moments. Nearly 45 years later, Paul sounds as giddy as a teenager about meeting Linda. "I just saw her across the room and fancied her like mad," he recalls of the night they met at London's Bag O' Nails club in 1967. "I blocked her path as she was exiting, and as I often say to my kids, 'If I had not had the nerve to do that, you wouldn't be here today.' I put my hand out and said, 'Hi, I'm Paul, who are you?' Very corny, but very effective." The following September, a newly single Paul invited the American Linda to London, and within a year the pair married and daughter Mary was born. From the looks of it, the two were endlessly having fun--either larking about on the London Tube at the height of his fame, on vacation with their children in the Caribbean, or simply "hanging," as Paul says. "Linda was definitely the hang-meister." There are dozens of photos showing the young McCartney family in the country, with goats poking their noses into the kitchen or Paul balancing on a fence in his bathrobe. "We were good with each other," he says of their marriage, during which they never willingly spent a night apart. "We both shared a lot of values, we were family people--and we made good babies." "She didn't like things too manicured. She liked [things] more rock 'n' roll," says Mary, who has followed in her mother's footsteps. "Just talking to her about photography, you could see sort of like a naughty twinkle in her eyes. It really excited her." Even Paul was impressed with Linda's "punk-rock" attitude, as Stella terms it. "Sometimes I would think, Oh, my God, these people are going to get annoyed; she's sticking a camera in their face," he says. "But she just had this way about her where people just went, Okay, and sort of smiled. The only person who ever said no was Bob Dylan. And even him, she shot later." Besides being easygoing, Paul says, "she had beautiful hands, so she looked good taking a picture." Going through all of Linda's work almost 13 years after her death was moving for the family. "It was very joyful, and it was a lovely experience really," Paul says. Stella adds, "There were moments as a child that I didn't even remember the pictures being taken that cracked me up when I saw them." At the same time, "it was emotional. I'm incredibly sad that my mother's not here to see my kids and that my kids don't get to know her. And she didn't meet my husband. That's one of the hardest things. I don't even know how to put that into words."