Through the Lens: McCartney’s Visual Chronicle of The Beatles’ Rise to Global Fame

The Brooklyn Museum is currently hosting a fascinating exhibition titled “Eyes of the Storm,” showcasing over 250 photographs taken by Paul McCartney with his 35mm Pentax camera. These photos offer a fresh perspective on the storied history of The Beatles, a band that became a global phenomenon in the 1960s, their music resonating simultaneously worldwide.

The exhibition captures intimate backstage moments and candid shots from the band’s early tours, particularly between 1963 and 1964, when The Beatles first visited the United States. McCartney’s collection includes over 250 images ranging from musicians tuning their instruments backstage to sweeping landscapes viewed from plane and train windows. Notably, he also captured the frenzy of Beatlemania by photographing throngs of fans and persistent paparazzi.

One of the highlight pieces at the exhibition is a blurred self-portrait McCartney took in a mirror in London in 1963. “We chose this mirror self-portrait because it reflects the central theme of the exhibition: photography and the photographer,” explained Catherine Futter, the museum’s Director of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Curator of Decorative Arts. Opposite the self-portrait, visitors can view a large photo of the band performing, which, while not taken by McCartney, was captured by a member of his team using his camera from backstage.

Sarah Yáñez-Richards from the EFE agency notes that the exhibition includes not only McCartney’s photos but also memorabilia that Beatles fans will find fascinating, such as wigs, magazines, personal diaries, and even board games inspired by the band.

Underneath many of the photos, visitors can read—or listen via a free app—to McCartney’s reflections on those moments. “One thing that kept us sane was fooling around. There were a couple of hats lying around at the Christmas show, and George thought it funny to wear two. And he was right, it made for a great photo,” McCartney reminisced about a humorous shot of George Harrison. About a black and white photo of John Lennon wearing sunglasses in Paris, McCartney commented, “That’s how we worked and that’s how I got to know him. Looking back, these images are very special to me because they are like family snapshots.”

Other photos transport visitors directly through the eyes of a young Englishman experiencing the United States for the first time, such as an image capturing the gun of a Miami police officer assigned to the band’s security. “I was in the car shooting pictures of palm trees and the general glamour of Miami, when one of our police escorts (a motorcycle officer) pulled up right next to the car, and there it was right in my camera lens. It was a bit shocking for us to see a real gun, as we didn’t have armed police in England,” McCartney noted.

This exhibition not only chronicles The Beatles’ international ascent but also showcases McCartney’s talent and vision as a visual artist, providing a unique, intimate view of one of the most iconic bands in history.