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National Portrait Gallery to display unseen photos by Paul McCartney from The Beatles’ early days

A new exhibition is set to display more than 250 images taken by Paul McCartney between November 1963 and February 1964   (Paul McCartney/PA)
A new exhibition is set to display more than 250 images taken by Paul McCartney between November 1963 and February 1964 (Paul McCartney/PA)

A handful of unseen photographs taken by Sir Paul McCartney during the early days of The Beatles have been released ahead of his National Portrait Gallery display.

The archive features more than 250 images taken between November 1963 and February 1964 which capture the emergence of Beatlemania through the personal lens of Sir Paul’s Pentax camera.

The exhibition, titled Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes Of The Storm, will run from June 28 to October 1 and marks the reopening of the National Portrait Gallery, which has undergone three years of major refurbishments.

The photographs document a critical moment in the evolution of The Beatles, beginning with black and white portraits taken backstage in Liverpool and culminating with their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York for an audience of millions which transformed the group into global popstars.

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The portraits of John Lennon, George Harrison, Sir Ringo Starr and manager Brian Epstein depict moments of concentration, relaxation and joy.

McCartney’s photos depict intimate moments from the band’s early days (PA)
McCartney’s photos depict intimate moments from the band’s early days (PA)

In 2020, Sir Paul approached the National Portrait Gallery about an exhibition after stumbling across the images, which he thought were lost.

The 80-year-old said: “Looking at these photos now, decades after they were taken, I find there’s a sort of innocence about them. Everything was new to us at this point. But I like to think I wouldn’t take them any differently today.

“They now bring back so many stories, a flood of special memories, which is one of the many reasons I love them all, and know that they will always fire my imagination.

“The fact that these photographs have been taken by the National Portrait Gallery for their reopening after a lengthy renovation is humbling yet also astonishing – I’m looking forward to seeing them on the walls, 60 years on.”

Director of the National Portrait Gallery Dr Nicholas Cullinan said: “We all know what Beatlemania looked and sounded like from the outside, but what did it look and feel like for the four pairs of eyes that lived and witnessed it first-hand?

“Over more than half a century, we have become familiar with press photographs showing the smiling Beatles and their screaming fans, but Paul McCartney’s intimate photographs have more in common with a family album, capturing people caught in off-guard moments of relaxation and laughter.

“I will always be honoured that Paul approached the National Portrait Gallery to share this extraordinary archive – this exhibition begins an exciting new chapter for the gallery, as we prepare to open our new doors and welcome back our visitors.”

An accompanying book of photographs and reflections will be published on June 13.