Unseen photos of The Beatles by Paul McCartney to go on display

'John and George' by Paul McCartney, 1963 or 1964
'John and George', from McCartney's rediscovered collection. (Photo: Paul McCartney/National Portrait Gallery)

Previously unseen portraits taken by Paul McCartney at the outset of The Beatles’ fame will be displayed for the first time later this year.

The collection of 275 photographs will be shown to the public at the newly refurbished National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London from June 28 to October 1. ‘Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm’ comprises 35mm shots taken in London, Paris, Liverpool, Washington and New York between December 1963 and February 1964, as Beatlemania took hold worldwide.

McCartney previously thought he had lost the collection, but recently rediscovered it, leading him to approach the NPG in 2020. “He said he’d found these photographs that he remembers taking but thought had been lost,” said the gallery’s director, Nicholas Cullinan. “We sat down with him and began going through them. [It was] extraordinary to see these images – which are unseen – of such a well-documented, famous and important cultural moment.”

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The upcoming exhibition “will provide a uniquely personal perspective on what it was like to be a Beatle at the start of Beatlemania,” according to Cullinan. “The photographs taken in this period captured the very moment that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were propelled from being the most popular band in Britain to an international cultural phenomenon, from gigs in Liverpool and London to performing on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York to a television audience of 73 million people.”

A book of the photographs will also be published in June, to mark McCartney’s 81st birthday. “They’re taken by someone who was really, as the exhibition title alludes, in the eye of the storm looking outside at what was happening,” Cullinan added. The release of the book will make McCartney the fourth published photographer in his family; his first wife, Linda, was the first woman to shoot the cover of Rolling Stone. Their daughter, Mary, is a photographer and filmmaker and McCartney’s brother, Mike, has released books of Beatles photos.

‘Eyes of the Storm’ will help bring up the curtain on a new era for the NFG, which has been closed for refurbishment since March 2020. It reopens on June 22, six days before McCartney’s collection, with a new exhibition centring on Yevonde, the 1930s pioneer of colour photography.