Paul McCartney Photographs 1963–64: Eyes of the Storm Exhibition. National Portrait Gallery, London (28 June–1 October 2023).
More times than he can count, Paul McCartney has been asked to write an autobiography. Time after time, he has declined. The iconic Beatle has never kept a diary or a notebook either—“what I do have are my songs,” he has argued, “hundreds of them, which, I’ve learned, serve much the same purpose”: candid, intimate glimpses of singular moments in time—much like the thousands of photographs he has taken over the years, which are personal, uncontrived, and uniquely telling.
Paul McCartney has been taking pictures all his life: from his Liverpool childhood days, when he used his parents’ Kodak Brownie, to the stellar heights of Beatlemania and the music-infused decades that followed.
Eyes of the Storm is a new book and National Portrait Gallery exhibition of photographs taken by the wide-eyed, young McCartney over four momentous months in The Beatles’ lives. Recently discovered in McCartney’s archives, they are an intimate, hitherto-unseen record of the band’s journey through five cities and on one milestone transatlantic flight, at the end of which, Paul, John, George, and Ringo became the most famous musicians on the planet—“more popular than Jesus.”
Starting in November 1963, the boys travelled from Liverpool to London, Paris, New York, Washington, and Miami, and each step of their journey was captured on McCartney’s Pentax SLR. “From the moment he acquired a camera in the autumn of 1963,” explained the exhibition’s curator Rosie Broadley, “McCartney documented his life with The Beatles”: with portraits of George, John, and Ringo; family members; screaming fans; press photographers; street scenes; cityscapes; and the band’s entourage, “an extended cast of characters usually overlooked,” including roadies Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall; chauffeur Bill Corbett, who drove their Austin Princess; publicist Tony Barrow; and Freda Kelly, who ran the fan club.