LONDON — Mary McCartney has built her photography career on moments — some of them fleeting, others quieter and more meditative. Over the past year she’s gathered some of her favorites for an exhibition that opens Thursday at Sotheby’s London.
Called “Mary McCartney: Can We Have a Moment?” the show features images taken over the past 30 years in Britain. Some are intimate, and comical, such as her late mother’s hands holding a bewildered little frog, while others are more styled and dramatic, as in Tracey Emin dressed as Frida Kahlo.
There are nudes, celebrities, and even snaps of wellies in the mud at the Glastonbury music festival. Nearly all of them have been shot on film, which McCartney prefers to digital. Many have been captured with the Leica R7 that McCartney’s mother Linda gave her, which she describes as “a bit of a good luck charm.”
The show runs through April 2 at Sotheby’s New Bond Street, with the works available to buy online until June 9. McCartney’s display is part of a wider program of exhibitions by women artists marking International Women’s Day.
In an interview, McCartney said it was lockdown that made her look at her archive — full of sensual portraits and images of people going about their everyday lives — in a whole different light.
“At times it felt like we’d never be able to be together again and, since then, these moments of being together have become an important theme to me. These are moments where I’ve been able to explore my hometown, be with people, and be in their homes. The show is about these connected moments, each one from a slightly different time and a different experience,” she said.
McCartney said she’s always looking for the stand-alone frame, a single still image that encapsulates so much more.
She said she took the picture “Gently Holding a Frog, 1995” in Scotland, where she and her mother were walking along a path.
“She looked down and there was this gorgeous frog just in the middle of the path. And she picked him up and just moved him off to safety. I went in on him [with the camera] because he amused me and I love the brightness of the image. I’m super-curious to find out what it sparks in other people’s imaginations,” she said.
There are images from McCartney’s study of dancers backstage at The Royal Ballet and one called “Glastonbury, 2007.” That one features people’s welly-clad legs in the mud at the famous British music festival, where — inevitably — it pours with rain.
“With that one you can feel the crowd, feel the festival and that slow squidge of the mud. Still, it’s anonymous, and I find I’m drawn to anonymity,” McCartney added.
“Unzipping, 2007” shows Kate Moss from the back, kneeling barefoot on a gilded chair, unzipping her slinky red dress. McCartney said she likes the “anonymity, and the element of mystery” of the portrait and wants viewers to use their imagination to unravel it.
McCartney is always on the lookout for moments and said she prefers capturing them on film.
“From a technical point of view, it keeps you focused on what you’re doing. You’re not taking a picture and then looking at the screen to see what you’ve got. I just find that distracting. For me, it’s very important to try and stay engaged with the person and the subject,” she said.
McCartney’s next project sees her fusing her career as a photographer with her talents in the kitchen.
McCartney (like the rest of her family) is a committed vegetarian. She’s also a cookbook author with a TV series called “Mary McCartney Serves It Up” on Discovery Plus.
The new project is called “Feeding Creativity.” She takes pictures of friends and famous creatives as they prepare and eat meals in their studios. The images will go into a portrait cookbook to be published by Taschen.
She creates a recipe, takes the food to the creative’s studios and photographs them as they cook and eat it. Her first subject was her pal Sir Peter Blake, the British Pop artist who co-created the sleeve for The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.
“I knew his studio because I’ve often taken photographs for him to paint from, and I knew he had a little hob [stove]” for cooking. So she cooked up a recipe, snapped an informal portrait while he warmed it up, and took a picture of the final dish, too.
McCartney said she’s been doing the same with people she admires, such as Stanley Tucci, Cindy Sherman, David Hockney, and the British-Nigerian poet and writer Theresa Lola. The book will also include the recipe and an anecdote about the intimate moments of McCartney’s own creation.