A quick and lazy google will tell you Mary McCartney has photographed everyone from the Blairs at Downing Street (she actually forgot her tripod when she shot them) to Spice Girl Mel C. An eclectic mix. In the loo at Mary’s west London studio, there hangs her portrait she took last year of The Queen; poised, earnest and well, the queen—it sits brilliantly above the bog. The only other picture in the bathroom is of two leathered and brilliantly wrinkled sun worshipers on their sunbeds in Venice. Him reclining with his jazzy rainbow swimming trunks on and she completely covered up bar her face. She really has photographed them all.
‘It’s quite small in there’ she says of Number 10, ‘it’s an enclosed space and you’re being asked to take a photo of their newborn baby 36 hours after it was born. At first, you think "what do I think politically?" Then you think "actually, that’s not my job."’
It seems about time then, that Mary has released a new book titled Monochrome/Colour or Colour/Monochrome depending which way you happen to open it. A book of her life’s work of pictures spilt into two parts. Opening a page you feel like you’ve just walked in on a secret conversation between Mary and her subject. They are usually arrestingly relaxed, happy and/or unaware of her presence, and there is usually a glimmer of mischievousness in their eyes, much like Mary.
She has those wide-eyed fish bowl eyes that are dangerously inviting, a bird-like face that could be quite stern if it wanted to be (but never would) and ink black hair tied in a something at the back. I assume she is the same when she is photographing to when she just chatting, eyes that laugh and stare and a mouth that talks as hypnotically as a bedtime story and a dirty joke at the same time. and actually, 10 minutes into meeting Mary you either want to hug her, marry her or kiss her.
Mary went through her entire back catalogue of over 10,000 contact sheets to come to the edit that is in the book. Was it emotional going through all those pictures? ‘It was, it’s your life in a way, within images, I did a big edit and then would pull out a picture and ask; why it's important to me?’
Mary started off as a picture researcher, not taking photographs. It was only when she started going through her mother (Linda McCartney’s) archive with her that she began to take photos. Her first commission came from Frank Magazine, ‘I thought, this is it! This is my moment! But actually it hasn’t been like that for me, it’s been constant. What I was interested in then is still what I’m interested in now.'
With her mother being a famed photographer and her father (Paul McCartney) habitually being chased and photographed, Mary’s relationship with imagery started from dot. What did that introduction to photography mean for her?
‘It did affect me. The type of pictures I like are quite intimate and quite personal, but they are personal in an invited way, I don’t want to go in and get a sneaky picture of something, I want someone to want me to come in and take an intimate picture of them.’
So the aesthesis of the paparazzi pictures? Which are intimate and invasive at the same time. ‘Yes completely. If someone says; “I don’t want that” I would never push it, but I would negotiate it in a certain way so they thought it was a good idea too. I don’t want someone with a grumpy face’.
Has having access been important to you? ‘Hmm, not really. All of the celebrities I’ve photographed have pretty much, 90% of them that I have shot, have been commissioned editorials. They’re not friends’.
Usually photographers are intimidating in some way, why do you think people trust you? ‘I think because of my upbringing when I meet a celebrity they trust me quicker, because they know I have an understanding and understand it. But I think a lot of people think I’m taking those pictures because they are my friends, and I’m friends with loads of celebrities, but that isn’t the case. The pictures like the ones with the dancers? I work really hard to get the access for.’
Do you like having your photo taken?
Not at all?
‘I like having pictures, but I feel very strongly you have to allow and trust somebody to take your picture. Otherwise your family doesn’t have anything to look back on.’
Mary’s pictures are just as much a reflection of her attractiveness as they are the subject, she isn’t the pervert in the corner she is more the friend who happened to have a camera on her. Reading Monochrome/Colour is like Mary McCartney just invited you into her nest, and making yourself really cosy, you won’t want to leave anytime soon.