Center for Creative Photography

The North American premiere of ‘The Linda McCartney Retrospective’ exhibition opened at the University of Arizona Center for Creative Photography with a successful weekend of events on Feb. 24-25.

A reception was held on Feb. 24, a packed-event including major supporters and CCP members, plus special appearances by President Robert C. Robbins, Vice President for the Arts Andrew Schulz, Linda McCartney Archives curator Sarah Brown, family members of artist Hazel Larsen Archer, CCP co-founder and former University of Arizona President John Schaefer, President Obama’s official photographer Pete Souza and members of the JP MorganChase team.

>> Full program of lectures, community tables and musical performances

The title wall and opening space filled with Linda McCartney portraits and family photos. Photo by Chris Richards.

Q&A on Linda’s career with Paul McCartney

Student engagement is a major goal of the overall program for ‘The Linda McCartney Retrospective.’ In the fall of 2022, Sir Paul McCartney invited students in the University of Arizona W.A. Franke Honors College seminar “Communicating Photography” to interview him about Linda McCartney’s photography. You can see all of the student interviews on the CCP Interactive app.

But here are a couple Q&A featured on to whet your appetite.

CCP students: The Linda McCartney Retrospective exhibition is split into different themes of Linda’s work: artists, photographic exploration and so on. Which area of her photography was Linda most excited about? 

Vice President for the Arts Andy Schulz, Linda McCartney Archives Curator Sarah Brown and University President Robert C. Robbins. Photo by Chris Richards.

Paul: I think one of the most interesting things about Linda’s photography is her journey. She started off in Tucson with [accomplished photographer] Hazel Larsen Archer – she happened to go to Hazel’s class who said, ‘Get yourself a camera, take some pictures and come back next week’. So, that was the first lesson and Linda found it a lot of fun. 

Then when Linda went back to New York and got involved in the music scene. She began taking pictures for music magazines like Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy. She would be at the front at a concert taking pictures of music she loved and was knowledgeable about. She once told me about the time she was taking pictures of B.B. King, whose music she adored. She felt very privileged to be in that position. Another photographer next to her was a guy who was sent along to take photos, and he asked Linda, ‘Who’s this? Who is it I’m photographing?’ And she had to tell him, ‘It’s B.B. King!’ Her love of music and photography really came together then. 

Photo by Chris Richards.

After we got married, her photography started to focus on family life with the kids, horses, countryside and landscapes. Whatever situation she was in she would use it for her art, and her craft naturally developed that way. At one point she heard about cyanotypes and became really fascinated by the whole idea of printing photos herself. She loved treating the paper haphazardly and the whole process of putting it out on the balcony in the sun to develop: she thought it was magic. So, I would say she was excited about all her photography, because it was her life. 

CCP students: You and Linda shared a creative partnership through the music you made together and with Wings. Did this creative partnership extend to photography as well? 

Paul: I was very into photography, so I could relate to what she was doing. But I knew she was better. There was never any question of that. I admired her skills, and we could talk about photography. For example, we’d talk about light settings, or lack of! She wasn’t a big light meter person. She would guess it which is quite amazing actually when you look at some of the pictures. There’s this photo of James in Scotland where he’s jumping in the air and I’m balancing on the fence, and I’m sure there’s an awful lot of technical stuff going on in that photo that I wouldn’t begin to know about. Linda had to capture James’ motion, so there’s a shutter speed involved. She had to get the distance and the foreground and background all in focus. She had a natural skill for all that. 

I remember talking to [art dealer] Robert Fraser once about what constituted a good picture, and we ended up both saying that you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time. Then you’ve got to know when to click. Linda was very good at that. She could make people very comfortable; she was not one for those long photo sessions. Instead, she would take one or two casual shots and then put the camera away. She didn’t like a huge set-up with lots of lights and things: she wanted her subjects to be at ease.

See all of the student interviews on the CCP Interactive app.

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