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The Daily Tar Heel

Rock Exhibit Crowds Ackland

Nearly 2,000 poeple spilled off the Ackland Art Museum's front steps to view the 50 photographs of the "Linda McCartney: Portrait of the Sixties" exhibit. The Ackland's currator of exhibitions, Barbara Matilsky said the crowd was the biggest showing at an exhibit opening the Ackland has experienced.

Linda McCartney was an accomplished photographer and wife to Paul McCartney of the Beatles who died of cancer in 1998. Her photos feature various rock stars from the 1960s such as the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin.

McCartney's photos are not just run-of-the-mill pictures snagged during polished photo shoots, like many of the pictures displayed in magazines today. Instead, they show the musicians in more behind-the-scenes settings and are often described as more personal.

"The photos aren't staged," said Rachel Price, a UNC gradute attending the opening. "She had a knack for getting people just the way they were. It's almost like she has photographed their souls."

One photo features Aretha Franklin, glancing away, with a sarcastic retort seemingly about to escape her lips, and another shows Paul McCartney sheltering his daughter Mary in his jacket. In one, Brian Jones gapes at the camera from a casual slouch. Another shows Mamma Cass of the Mamas and the Papas finishing her meal by the TV while John Phillips quietly jams on his guitar nearby.

One reason why photos such as these emenate with frankness and personality was because of McCartney's connection to the musicians as more than just icons, a connection that existed long before she met Paul McCartney. "She was their friend," said Gabrielle Abbott, guest curator for the exhibit. "She had a camera. She took their pictures."

Many of the spectators said the photos nostalgia also enhances their quality. "When you think of where the `60s went, combined with Linda McCartney's cancer and death, that tragedy makes the emotion and happiness in the photos that much more stunning," said Ed McWilliams, a senior English major.

McCartney's work has gained recognition due to the relationship rock music shares with images, said Dr. John Covach, music professor and front man of the Beatles cover band that played at the opening. "Rock is a lot of times about lifestyle, how the music affirms how people live, clothes they wear, values they hold, what they do," he said. "People can relate in a visual way because people are more visual than aural."

Covach will give a talk correlating with the McCartney exhibit, "Beatles and the Sixties," today at 7:30 p.m. at the Ackland. "A Hard Day's Night," the 1964 Beatles' film will be shown following his talk at 9 p.m.. The exhibit will run until August 19.

Allyson Shaffer can be reached at

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