Former Beatle and Clapton wife looks back with love

Story highlights

  • Pattie Boyd's photographs capture a rare intimacy and casualness of former husbands George Harrison and Eric Clapton
  • Some of the photographs only recently turned up, says Boyd
  • Boyd's photographs went on display at the San Francisco Art Exchange

(CNN)The rock stars of the '60s and '70s have, inevitably, gotten older. Many are now in their 70s; some have even passed on.

Pattie Boyd still sees them as vigorous youths.
"I feel very lucky that I was part of that whole scene in the '60s and '70s," she says in a phone interview from her home in Britain. "I love looking at the photographs because everyone was young, and they were so gorgeous to look at."
    "The photographs" are the pictures that Boyd, 69, took of many of the era's notables -- including her former husbands, George Harrison and Eric Clapton.
    As Harrison's wife, she was there when the Beatles went through the frenzy of Beatlemania, the journeys of psychedelia and mysticism and the crumbling of their partnership. With Clapton -- who ardently pursued her for years -- she witnessed a guitarist at the peak of his solo fame as well as his struggle with addiction. She was married to Harrison from 1966 to 1977 and Clapton from 1979 to 1989.
    Boyd's photographs, including many of the Beatles and Clapton, went on display at the San Francisco Art Exchange on Tuesday and will remain on exhibit until March 15.
    The photos capture a rare intimacy and casualness. The Beatles are photographed on their 1968 visit to India, with the group looking relaxed and happy. In another picture, Clapton grins at fellow guitarist Freddie King in 1974.
    Then there's one of Harrison in the early '90s, clutching a ukulele -- a favorite instrument of the Beatles guitarist, who died in 2001.
    Some of the photographs only recently turned up, says Boyd.
    "I'm quite a sloppy person as far as working out where all my negatives and slides are," she says. One of them pictures a group setting up the stage for "The Last Waltz," the 1976 San Francisco concert filmed by Martin Scorsese.
    Boyd, who wrote a memoir in 2007, says there's some emotion underneath the pictures, even decades later. (After all, she inspired a number of songs on Clapton's "Layla" album, his way of channeling the anguish he felt for loving his best friend's wife.) But it's not necessarily sorrow or longing. The pictures also bring back a lot of happiness, she says.
    Many Harrison photos, particularly one from late 1967, show him at ease, before the agonies of the Beatles' business troubles took root. And Clapton never looks happier than when he's on stage: "He never, never, never had stage nerves. In the middle of a conversation (he'd say), 'Oh, I've got to go on now,' and just walk on as if he were walking into his home."
    She understands that -- despite time in front of the camera herself, as a model for the likes of David Bailey -- she'll probably always be looked at in the context of her famous mates. But that's OK.
    "I can't rewrite history," she says. "I'll always be linked to the Beatles, George and Eric."
    It doesn't hurt, however, that she'll always see them as young and beautiful.
    "We all get a bit older," she says, "but, you know, I'm so glad that I have these photos."