'Eyes of the Storm' looks at Beatlemania through the lens of Paul McCartney - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
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For those traveling to the swinging city this year, the National Portrait Gallery in London is currently showcasing an exhibit of 250 never-before-seen photographs taken by an unlikely photographer: Sir Paul McCartney. Titled Eyes of the Storm, the display showcases pictures taken from December 1963 to February 1964, right on the verge of Beatlemania and the beginnings of the British Invasion in America. While McCartney is better known as a prolific songwriter and musician than as a photographer with an eye for art, the exhibit doesn’t present these photos in a conventional manner. Instead, it displays the collection as snapshots of a pivotal time in pop culture history, recorded and documented live from a first-person perspective.

photo by Paul McCartney | courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

photo by Paul McCartney | courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

It’s difficult to imagine the range of feelings Paul, John, George, and Ringo must have felt during that time. After returning from a grueling yet wildly successful U.K tour in December of 1963, The Beatles then played 18 consecutive sold-out nights at the famous Olympia Music Hall in Paris before being whisked off to America to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th, 1964. Paul’s photographs encapsulate this chaotic period perfectly, ranging from confident self-portraits, to enigmatic shots of George wandering about, to exhausted and fatigued stills of Ringo passing time on the plane to America.

photo by Paul McCartney | courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

photo by Paul McCartney | courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

For the most part, however, the band looks elated, celebrating their newly earned stardom and taking in the sights of each new city they visited, smiling and carefree. The exhibit is heartwarming to a die-hard Beatles fan such as myself, seeing John with his short hair (relative to his 1969 shoulder-length hairdo) and George Harrison and Brian Epstein swimming and boating. The pictures rightfully present the group in a more loving light than any of the millions of articles that claim to understand why The Beatles broke up, or the awkwardness throughout Peter Jackson’s recent Get Back documentary. Paul’s photographs are proof of a time at which The Beatles were simply four young musicians — and friends — that hit the big time and became world famous overnight.

photo by Paul McCartney | courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

photo by Paul McCartney | courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

Each photo was captured using Paul’s own 35mm Pentax film camera, which he picked up to better document his own experience with The Beatles rather than letting the constant onslaught of newspaper and magazine photographers be the only ones to photograph the band. The 250 picture set includes examples of both black and white and color film, with Paul’s lens being aimed at not only his fellow Beatles, but team members such as Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall, Paul’s girlfriend Jane Asher, the band’s manager Brian Epstein, and many more from the band’s travels. Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm will be at the National Portrait Gallery in London through October 1st, and for those that can’t see the photos in person, a hardcover book of the exhibit is available to purchase here.

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