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Club Sandwich 78

Out here. California. 1975

This autumn Linda will publish a brand new book, Roadworks. These photographs are The Unseen Linda, pictures that she took by and for herself during thirty years of travel and roam. They are not "popular rock and roll studies", but expressions of her art. Here, Geoff Baker discusses that art. Club Sandwich 78

            When I first saw the photographs that Linda has compiled for Roadworks, her latest publication, the following words came into my head:
            "Cellophane flowers of yellow and green, towering over your head..."

            Granted, there are no cellophane flowers in this book. And the images aren't yellow and green.
            But that's not my point. My point is, the pictures in Roadworks, just like any of the Sgt Pepper lyrics, are more than they seem. They are not mere images of whatever the film in her camera was exposed to, they are expressions of an attitude.
            For thirty years, Linda's attitude has been largely unseen by the world. Yes, we know that she is a quite brilliant rock photographer. Yes, we are used to seeing her image on the cover of cookbooks and packets of frozen food.
            But that isn't this Linda. This Linda, perhaps the real Linda, the Linda who took these photographs, is all about art. Art is pictures in an exhibition. Art is rare ability. At its most pure, art is that which betters life. It is that which, when applied to our usual vision of the world, provokes question, thought, and, hopefully, action to improve it.
            In this, Linda McCartney is a true artist because, by her very being, she begs questions.
            Look at her pictures. Here is not always the apparently beautiful. Yes, there is joy - witness the faces of the crowd at Paul's concert in Chile. Yes, there is humour and captured dignity. But here also is drudgery, gloom - even, at times, hopelessness. Linda's images of city life sleaze, the low hope of the high-rise, and the sky stains made by polluting industry, are not pretty.
            But, still, these pictures aren't just saying ugh. Linda is saying "look at this," or moreover "look and think on this". Think of the store closing down, think of the tedium of living in a traffic jam, think of why this is. And then think, why does it have to be? Better that. Let's look to another way, a better way.
            Through this art, Linda calls into question the accepted and traditional human state by revealing beyond what we see (but don't see). Like Sgt Pepper, Linda sees beyond our vision. And that is not just in her photography, either. Her pictures are merely the communicated print of her vision. Her nature is such that Linda is photographic with or without a camera.
            People who fear that they do not understand art often talk of the untrained eye, whereas what they should be concerned with is the untrained mind. To a mind harnessed to the routine of day-to-day, day after day life, Roadworks isn't Sixties. You cannot here turn to page 56 and say "Oh, that's Jimi Hendrix, I recognise his picture." These are pictures wryly and candidly taken, to be thought on.
            As Paul says, "For a long time, Linda has admired the work of photographers who are not necessarily commercial, as such.
            "Many of the photographs that she has taken, she's never really found the opportunity to publish because they're not right for magazines - they're a little too personal or a little too obscure for the average publication.
            "But finally, with this book, she has her chance. Having established her commerciality with Sixties, which sold more than most photographic books, she has the opportunity to do something more strange.
            "People shouldn't expect a straightforward commercial book. This is more Linda's own taste, the photography that she really enjoys.
            "I love this book, I think it's really very exciting. It's a great book, with marvellous images and lot of humour in it."
            Eccentric. Obscure. Strange. Good ways to be, to see.