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Mary McCartney’s Undone

A new photography exhibit at Izzy Gallery.

Mary McCartney—yes, daughter of that McCartney—returns to Toronto this November for a second exclusive exhibition of her photographs at Izzy Gallery in the city’s upscale Yorkville district. Undone features 18 mostly large format images, both black and white and in colour, plus the Canadian premier of a video shot behind-the-scenes at a London revival of A Chorus Line.

Although she grew up touring with Wings, the band which father Paul and mother Linda (née Eastman) kept on the run while McCartney and her siblings were small, now the London native is more likely to be found intrepidly photographing dancers rather than the rock star celebrities she calls family.

McCartney’s eccentric and expansive portfolio includes intimate backstage portraits of ballerinas at the Royal Ballet, along with hoofers for hire rehearsing a West End musical. “I’ve always been drawn to the energy of preparation,” says the 48-year old mother of four sons in an interview to promote the Toronto show, one of only a handful to showcase her work in North America. “I know it’s gruelling.” To communicate the slog behind the artistry, McCartney shot her Crazy Horse video in grainy black and white, “just because it’s real, visceral,” she explains. “The poetry is there, but it’s laced with pure effort and dedication. I find that cocktail intoxicating.”

“The poetry is there, but it’s laced with pure effort and dedication,” says McCartney. “I find that cocktail intoxicating.”

Besides dancers, Undone offers up off-kilter glimpses of fashion, including one of sister Stella McCartney in the nude and bent over to lace up a high heel shoe, her face completely obscured from view. This style—an unscripted insider’s view free from formal constraints—comes naturally to McCartney. McCartney’s late mother, when she photographed rock musicians in the 1960s, had harnessed spontaneity as a technique for capturing the allure and notoriety of her prominent subjects as well. Commissioned by the Blairs to take the first official photograph of their son born while they were residents of Downing Street and more recently the Queen, McCartney has absorbed that early influence and run with it since going professional in 1995.

Her relaxed yet reverent style runs through Undone as a whole, making this latest collection of sensual images feel intimate, personal, and thrillingly voyeuristic. “I believe you find real spontaneity when the artist is slightly more relaxed, off guard even. When I have their trust, there is a two-way relationship,” she says. “They’re aware of the observation but are way more trusting than when it’s more public facing. I think magic lies in those moments.”

 Mary McCartney’s Undone is at Izzy Gallery, 1255 Bay St., Toronto, from Thursday, November 9 to December 9, 2017.

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