No matter what you’ve heard, Linda was not an heiress to the Eastman-Kodak fortune. In one of her first interviews after marrying Paul, the former Linda Eastman said, “I don’t know how that mistake came about, except through the name and the fact that I am a photographer.” Yet the rumor has persisted. Her father actually changed his name to Lee Eastman, having been born to Jewish Russian immigrants as Leopold Vail Epstein. George Eastman, who founded the Eastman Kodak camera and film company, was not related to anyone in Linda’s family.
Linda McCartney was famous for her vegetarianism, animal rights activism and her work as a music photographer, capturing such famous faces as Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Twiggy and The Grateful Dead. Her portrait of Eric Clapton made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 1968 – the first time work by a female photographer featured on the cover. She was also, of course, the first wife of Beatle Paul McCartney.
Although her formal training extended to just two lessons on photography that she attended at a night school whilst studying as an art history major at the University of Arizona, the pictures by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Edward Weston that she discovered there – along with her later introduction to the photography of Edward Steichen – inspired and influenced Linda’s work. Linda was also fascinated by the history of photography and honored the early photographic pioneer William Henry Fox by producing handcrafted cyanotype prints. Linda experimented with other printing processes throughout her career as well as producing thousands of Polaroids.
Excerpts from BBC’s interview with Linda McCartney in 1994:
“Photography really happened when I was living in Arizona and a friend of mine wanted to go to this art class at the Tucson Art Centre and it was in the evenings and she said ‘Please come along with me, I really want to go.’ And I said ‘No way.’ She said ‘Well I won’t go if you don’t come,’ so I went and I thought it would be teaching you what a camera was and everything, and it wasn’t, it was looking at photographs from Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams… really great photographers. Dorothea Lange was the biggest in my eyes. She photographed the migrant workers… And Walker Evans was the other [great] one. Again I think it was that whole period that inspired me.
“Hazel Archer, who was the teacher in the class, said ‘OK, I’ll see you next week, take your pictures and come back.’ So I went up to her and I said ‘Well I don’t have a camera and I don’t know how to take pictures,’ [and] she said: ‘Borrow a camera, buy a roll of film, and take pictures.’ She inspired me to become a photographer, because of the photographs she showed me, unlike fashion photography, they were photographs of life, of people, of sadness, of poverty, of nature, everything—I loved it.”