I’m not on Twitter or Facebook or any social media. You have to protect your sanity and your sanctuary. I think that’s really important, as an actor, because if you want to be able to represent real life you have to still have the ability to observe real life. And if everybody’s observing you, it must just become a very lonely place, unless you completely make friends with it.”

I photographed McCartney [for] a shoot for the Observer Music Monthly. He was to be interviewed by Pete Doherty, the singer and musician best known as the frontman for the Libertines. Doherty had been allowed out of rehab to interview him, so it was a great opportunity to photograph the two of them together, even though they made an incongruous pair.

I had plenty of time to shoot a series of pictures of Doherty on his own, but when McCartney arrived, the photographs of them both were done very quickly. I set up a grey background and took some shots, both as a record of their meeting and as a prelude to the interview. It was a brief but convivial shoot. McCartney was very courteous and professional, as well as being very gracious, considering the number of times he has been photographed.

[Harry Borden, Amateur Photographer, December 2016]

Pic: Harry Borden, taken c. 2007.

The invitation to photograph Sir Paul McCartney came out of the blue. It was a Thursday afternoon in March 2006 and I was on a train, heading back home to Devon after a shoot in London. The sun was shining and I was daydreaming. The train had just pulled out of Reading when my mobile rang.

It was Paul McCartney’s agent, asking if I would like to photograph him the following morning at Abbey Road Studios in London. He was recording his classical album Ecce Cor Meum (Behold My Heart) and wanted some reportage-style shots of the recording process for the album artwork. […]

However, at the moment the offer came, I’d just completed a tiring shoot in London and was looking forward to a long weekend at home. I thanked the publicist for the offer but said, ‘I think I’ll pass on this one.’

While on the journey, I phoned my agent and mentioned that I’d turned down the offer to photograph Paul McCartney. He said, ‘Are you mad? Phone him back now and tell him you’ll do it!’

I realised I’d made a mistake, so I rang McCartney’s agent and said, ‘I don’t know what I was thinking: it’s a great opportunity and I’d love to photograph him.’ Then I went home, had dinner and travelled 200 miles back up the track to London. I stayed overnight and then went to Abbey Road [Studios] the next morning.

When I arrived, the publicist made it clear that McCartney wanted me to photograph only what was happening and not to interact with anyone or give any direction. Although this was completely different to the way I normally worked, it meant I was free for the whole morning to roam around the studio, photographing McCartney, the choir and the orchestra. […]

My favourite picture from the shoot shows McCartney listening to the playback on headphones, surrounded by Abbey Road sound engineers and technicians. I just happened to go into the studio at that moment and quickly grabbed the shot. It was a genuine moment and I don’t think McCartney was even aware I was taking it.

[Harry Borden, Amateur Photographer, December 2016]

Pic: Harry Borden.