National Portrait Gallery Welcomes 'Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm' Exhibition in June 2023


Unseen photographs, taken by Paul McCartney at the height of Beatlemania, revealed ahead of major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery

More than 250 photographs from Paul McCartney's personal archive will be displayed for the first time as part of a major exhibition, staged to mark the National Portrait Gallery's reopening in June.

Paul McCartney Photographs 1963- 64: Eyes of the Storm
⁠28 June - 1 October 2023
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Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the exhibition will shine a light on the portraits captured by McCartney using his own camera between November 1963 and February 1964, the period in which John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were propelled from being the most popular band in Britain to an international cultural phenomenon.

This unprecedented display will consider the frenzy of 'Beatlemania' from the inside out, and for the first time through the lens of McCartney's Pentax camera. Described by Paul in his own words as the "eyes of the storm", these photographs provide a uniquely personal and never-before-seen perspective, documenting Paul's time with The Beatles at a critical moment in the groups' evolution.

An accompanying book of photographs and reflections by Paul McCartney, 1964: Eyes of the Storm, is published on 13 June by Penguin Press in the UK and by W.W. Norton in the US.⁠ Pre-Order 1964: Eyes Of The Storm book here!

"Millions of eyes were suddenly upon us, creating a picture I will never forget for the rest of my life." - ⁠Paul 

⁠While the exhibition's narrative represents just four short months, Paul's photographs chronologically document the experiences of the band on their travels - from the grainy black and white portraits taken backstage in Liverpool, rehearsing musicians at a recording studio in Paris, wintry Manhattan skylines, to the gleaming colour shots of Miami Beach in the sunshine. The earliest images in the exhibition date from November 1963, just as Beatlemania was gripping the nation, and culminate with photographs taken in February 1964, during the final days of the band's first triumphant trip to 'conquer' America. Indeed, the group's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on 9 February 1964 was watched by an unequalled television audience of 73 million people, transforming The Beatles into global superstars and redefining fame in the modern era.

Triptych self-portrait photograph of Paul McCartney
Self-portraits in a mirror. Paris, 1964

While the photographs selected for this exhibition had existed as negatives and contact sheets for 60 years, the majority had never before been made into prints. Rediscovered in the artist's personal archive in 2020, the photographs provide an insight into the band, their fans and the early 1960s, all through eyes of Paul McCartney. McCartney has selected the photographs, and shared personal reflections about the time and the images, which are captured in the exhibition.

Paul McCartney is recognised as one of the great cultural figures of the 20th and 21st centuries. Born in Liverpool, he reached international fame as a member of The Beatles, before becoming leader of the group Wings, and later commencing on a successful solo career. McCartney is one of the most distinctive songwriters in popular music, with Yesterday and Hey Jude among his most famousworks.

The four months depicted in this exhibition were just the beginning of an era of British cultural dominance in music, fashion and film. McCartney's extraordinary photographs invoke a time when culture was opening up to everyone - when four very young men from a northern English seaport could influence the world with their music and creativity.

Black and white photograph of John Lennon and George Harrison taken by Paul McCartney
John and George. Paris, 1964

Paul's interest in the visual arts is evident in his photographs, reflecting styles and aesthetics of the period, including New Wave, documentary film-making and photojournalism, which emerged in the 1960s. He absorbed cultural influences, adapting his style to achieve a particular atmosphere, and learned from the photographers he worked with, who embraced the imperfections of 'snapshot' photography. McCartney's own down-to-earth approach resonated with related cultural movements in Britain, such as gritty realism intheatre and literature and the Free Cinema movement, all of which prioritised working-class perspectives. ⁠His acute observation, so celebrated in his song-lyrics, characterised the intimate portraits of John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and manager Brian Epstein, depicting moments of concentration, relaxation and joy. While McCartney was nearly always surrounded by media, he also used his camera to draw out personal encounters with press photographers and individuals, set against a backdrop of roaring crowds. The exhibition documents the different environments he found himself in, documenting fleeting moments on the move, driving through streets lined with screaming fans.

"The truth is that I have always been interested in photography, from the time I was very young, when our family owned a little box camera in the 1950s. I used to love the whole process of loading a roll of Kodak film into our Brownie camera." - Paul 

Thanks to support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, a free digital guide on the Bloomberg Connects app will also launch when the exhibition opens on 28 June, providing an exciting accompaniment to Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-4: Eyes of the Storm. Making the National Portrait Gallery accessible for both visitors to the building and those exploring the exhibition online, the guide will provide additional image, audio and video features in a range of languages and BSL.

Black and white photograph taken by Paul McCartney of press photographers
Photographers in Central Park. New York, 1964

"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 photographshave 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."

Paul McCartney

"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 smilingBeatles 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 his 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."

Dr Nicholas Cullinan - Director, National Portrait Gallery

"The photographs in this exhibition offer a uniquely personal perspective on a period that has become pop culture folklore The Beatles' first transatlantic visit. Paul's work shows us what it was like to look through his eyes while The Beatles conquered the world, but also speak to hisunderstanding of photography, his interest in technology and his responsiveness to contemporary culture."

Rosie Broadley - Photographs Curator, National Portrait Gallery

"Bloomberg Philanthropies is a longtime supporter of the National Portrait Gallery, and we are proud to sponsor this exciting reopening exhibition. This archive of never-before-seen photographs taken by Paul gives a unique and personal perspective into what it was like to be a 'Beatie' at an extraordinary time.

We are delighted that fans around the world can explore the exhibition through the accompanying digital guide on the free Bloomberg Connects app, diving deeper into Paul's personal archive through additional images, audio, and videos."

Patricia E. Harris - CEO, Bloomberg Philanthropies

The National Portrait Gallery is pleased to offer a new £5 ticket for its Summer 2023 season of exhibitions, available to all visitors aged 30 and under. Supported by the Principal Partner of the new National Portrait Gallery- Bank of America - reduced £5 tickets for Paul McCartney Photographs 1963- 64: Eyes of the Storm will be available to all visitors aged 30 and under, seven days a week.

An accompanying book of photographs and reflections by Paul McCartney, 1964: Eyes of the Storm, is published on 13 June by Penguin Press in the UK and by W.W. Norton in the US. ⁠ ⁠Pre-Order 1964: Eyes Of The Storm book here!