Mary McCartney – A Life Portrait
From Coutts Woman
Mary McCartney – A Life Portrait
Mary McCartney – A Life Portrait
She’s usually more comfortable hidden behind a camera, but now Paul McCartney’s eldest daughter tells Coutts Woman why she is putting herself in the spotlight.
Often, when Mary McCartney walks past a mirror or catches her reflection in a shop window, she whips out her camera and clicks. She likes the idea of having a series of self portraits, not set up to look beautiful and styled, but something of the moment.
It is this sense of what is real, honest and spontaneous that dates back to her surprisingly down to earth childhood where she says her parents would regularly, “wander off the beaten track, just go off and meet all kinds of people.”
These parents, Paul and Linda McCartney, introduced their firstborn child to the world when the baby Mary appeared peering out of her father’s sheepskin jacket on the cover of his album, McCartney.
She has remained in the background throughout her 41 years, using “the camera to hide behind.”
But now she has put herself into the public domain with a fascinating book ‘From Where I Stand’, which reveals so much about her, the McCartney family, and her celebrity subjects.
Speaking exclusively to Coutts Woman, Mary says: “As I child we didn’t have any ideas of being an exclusive family. My mum and dad were always interested in wandering around different places and I think this has given me the approach I have to my photography.
“I often take self portraits if I’m going past a mirror I like, if something catches my eye, and it doesn’t matter whether I look beautiful or styled at that moment”
“I often take self portraits if I’m going past a mirror I like, if something catches my eye, and it doesn’t matter whether I look beautiful or styled at that moment.” This gritty, natural approach extends to Mary’s attitude to the modern craze to remain young and frozen in time.
She says: “I can understand people wanting to look their best and looking after themselves but I think it’s nice to have your own individual look. Plastic surgery and Botox can be taken too far and people end up looking like their character has been anaesthetised.
“If someone wants to embark on plastic surgery I think they’re walking a fine line. It’s a shame if it goes too far and detracts from the character in the person’s face. I prefer people not to have it. It can be very distracting when you meet someone who has had plastic surgery and it’s been taken to the extreme. It’s not something I’d do, I’ve not got to that point yet, I have no plans.”
Certainly Mary’s celebrity pictures use minimal lighting and make no attempt to airbrush her subjects’ lines and flaws. Her father Paul, in Willem De Kooning’s studio, looks tired and pale, her brother James stretching on Long Island has a deeply furrowed brow, and Helen Mirren’s alabaster skin clearly shows her crows feet and bitten finger nails.
The Helen Mirren photograph gave Mary a sleepless night and made her more nervous than she’s ever been.
She recalls how much she admires the great British actress and what it felt like to photograph her for her first ever commissioned portrait. “I found it daunting because she’s such a great actress, and I desperately wanted to get something good from the shoot and not waste it.
“I love the openness in her expression. She looks sexy and strong, and the tattoo on her hand (two intersecting pyramids) makes me wonder when she did that. She’s wearing her own piece of jewellery which makes me wonder when and how she came about getting it.”
Mary is privy to the backstage preparations and dramas at her sister Stella’s fashion shows, and has access to all the models.
It was during those private moments that she managed to photograph supermodel Kate Moss in a soft clinging yellow dress, and then unzipped, backless and bare foot in a dramatic red dress.
“I try to blend with the sitter I’m working with and not impose my mood on them, and generally like to try and be sensitive to them”
“This was one of Stella’s campaigns and in between we had a break, Kate was on the phone having cheese and crackers as a snack and I just loved that moment because the yellow of the dress ties in with the yellow of the Jacobs crackers packet, the Branson pickle is very British and she’s famously British as well, so it captured a lot and was a fun moment.
“Kate in a red dress with bare back leaves a lot to the imagination. It’s a clean, uncluttered image and you’re asking, who is this girl, why is she unzipping her dress, with bare feet, there’s a story behind it, and it makes the viewer wonder what’s going on.”
Paul has said of his daughter that she brings a well-developed sense of what is beautiful, and great humour to her photographs. These qualities are most evident in the photos of her family - her brother James up to his shoulders in a field of pink roses, sister Stella hiding behind a giant prickly cactus in arid Arizona, Paul on a horse in the sun dappled mountains of California.
Mary reveals: “I set my brother James amongst soft pink roses because he’s quite a nature boy who loves the outdoors. The pink flowers are stunning, you can almost smell the roses, and I was trying to capture his nature boy side.
“The other one of his with his arms up stretching is because I think his shoulder blades are amazing, the way they come out like that. It was taken in Long Island and I love the shingle wood tiles. The pictures reflect James’ character very well.
“My dad in Willem de Kooning’s studio was because dad paints, so it’s nice to have him set there. I try to blend with the sitter I’m working with and not impose my mood on them, and generally like to try and be sensitive to them.
“I’ve been a photographer for 15 years and it’s a natural development for me to put together a book and exhibition, surprising it’s taken me so long to do it. I’m excited about this step.
“My family have always encouraged me and never tried to send me in another direction. When I said I wanted to be a photographer my dad was very happy and supportive.
“I worked with my mum, so observed her approach to photography and we had similar interests so sometimes I’ll take a picture and think, mum would probably like that, or she would take a similar picture. And that’s nice. To be able to think, Mum would like that.”
Mary McCartney, From where I Stand, Thames & Hudson
By Sharon Feinstein