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AT THE ROYAL PHOTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY
As trailered in our last issue, Linda's exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society opened on 28th February and has already aroused much interest.
An article in Country Homes and Interiors emphasized her concern for animals and the environment, relating how the McCartney farm "has become a sanctuary for injured birds and animals." This involvement led Linda to Mallydams Wood, a "wildlife hospital" now run by the RSPCA: "I've had lots of birds from them over the years that had nowhere else to go." Mallydams is open to visitors once a year, and at other times by appointment.
Bel Mooney in the Telegraph Sunday Magazine focused keenly on Linda's life and career, drawing some interesting quotes from our lass: "I went to a course at the Tucson Arts Centre for two days, and all the teacher did was inspire me by showing me the work of these wonderful photographers... So I borrowed a friend's camera, took a roll of black and white film, and then brought it back. She looked at the contact sheet and said, 'This is wonderful - just go and take pictures.'
"I think she.saw that I see life. I appreciate life, and that's what it's all about... you see someone walk by, and they turn their head and you see it and click - that's the photograph... I think it's a sensual thing, photography."
Why, she was asked, did she avoid the grittier side of life in her work?
"I have taken a lot of that kind of photograph, which I've never exhibited... But I think I romanticise poverty without meaning to... the misery I would like to photograph is in slaughterhouses... I want to concentrate on animals because people know so little about their suffering."
Linda dreams of doing a vegetarian cookbook and video to show that no meat does not mean dull eating: "I feel that if I could get truck drivers to like what they're eating, without meat, I'd be there!"
On the vexed nepotism question - how much has hubby's name helped her? - La Mooney suggested surely this RPS show will lay that sort of talk to rest?
"Well, I did think... it's not the sort of place that would give me a show just because I'm married to Paul."
Quite. Sunday Today had a bit of a scoop with a wonderfully warm, relaxed photo of Linda by Paul, who is evidently ready with an opinion on her work.
"Paul has a highly critical eye. He is a multi-talented person: photographer, artist and carpenter. He's pretty handy."
|Linda at the opening with her brother, John
||Paul jokes with photographer, Monty Fresco
And, despite Bel Mooney's question, Linda clearly feels she's more of a realist now than in her early days: "I used to like taking pictures of musicians, artists and characters' faces. I've grown more into real life."
Onto the exhibition itself. Reflecting her Countryside Calendar and much of her other recent work, the catalogue (unillustrated) is in stylish monochrome. An authoritative introduction by Robert Lassam, Curator of the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock in Wiltshire, puts Linda's work in historical perspective. After noting that the influence of Alfred Stieglitz, an early inspiration to her, is still in evidence, he enthuses about her revival of near-obsolete techniques.
"Some of the gems of this show are to be found in the sun prints... I was aware of the similarity to W. H.F. Talbot's early catalogues of the 1840's. I discovered that Linda McCartney does in fact use Talbot's chemical methods. The total quality has a richness reminiscent of the early paper negative/positive prints... a study of the process using iron salts has produced bright blue and Vandyke brown pictures based on the invention of Sir John Herschel.
"It is interesting that she has turned to a hand tinted technique using water-colours in some of her landscapes. This... went out of favour in the mid 1930's. However these delicately tinted prints have a charm which suggests this may be a process worth pursuing.'.. she is eager to explore... the experimental work of the early pioneers, particularly in the study of paper, the use of platinum salts."
Some vital statistics. There are 114 images in the exhibition, of which 77 are monochrome prints, 11 conventional colour prints, 17 sun prints and nine hand-coloured prints. Besides the expected family, animals and landscapes studies include Press To Play engineer Matt Butler, artists Brian Clarke and Willem de Kooning and the members of UB40, one of Linda and Paul's favourite groups. Birds make their mark, too: the last three monochrome items are 'Cygnets', 'Peacocks' and 'Vultures'. The fascinating sun prints contain Linda's usual cross-section of subjects, including a fourth study of Bodiam Castle. Most of the refreshing hand-coloured prints are landscapes.
The catalogue lists the galleries where Linda has exhibited. The total is an impressive 36: 12 in Britain, 15 in the USA (including one in Puerto Rico), the remainder in Europe and Australia. Nevertheless, this show at the Royal Photographic Society is surely her most important to date.
The RPS moved to Bath in 1980, establishing a National Centre of Photography in Milsom Street. The Centre has three large galleries surrounding the Octagon, a larger