Today, the V&A announces a gift of photographs by the artist intimate, observational photographs, McCartney has gifted 14 prints to the museum from her Mary McCartney. Known for her first ever solo show Off Pointe - A Photographic Study of the Royal Ballet After Hours. A selection of these prints will feature in the V&A Photography Centre’s inaugural display, Collecting Photography: From Daguerreotype to Digital, which opens on 12 October 2018.
Taken in 2004, McCartney’s seminal series captures unguarded, behind-the-scenes moments of ballet dancers as they prepare for performances at The Royal Opera House. After a long fascination with ballet, it was a 2004 night out in London’s Soho with Royal Ballet dancer, Sian Murphy, that inspired McCartney to reveal unseen aspects of the ballet world, including ‘the highs and lows and the prestige and chaos behind the scenes’.
McCartney chose to shoot Off Pointe in black and white for its gritty, filmic quality. She wanted her images to look timeless, inviting viewers to fill in the gaps. After spending a significant period getting to know Murphy and her fellow dancers, McCartney was granted access to photograph intimate moments inside their homes and dressing rooms to capture everything but the stage. From dancers smoking in-between acts and drinking Diet Coke in their dressing rooms, to gnarled feet soaking in a bath and the haunting image of an exhausted lone dancer climbing the stairs, her bodice gaping open post-performance, McCartney’s series depicts the real-life dedication behind the poised perfection seen on-stage.
Mary McCartney said: “I’m inspired to make photographs that have a candid, honest quality. Through ‘Off Pointe’, I wanted to document the hidden details of the ballet world and reveal the contrast between the sometimes gruelling, painful lifestyle of the dancers and their fairy-tale performances. I’m excited that the prints now belong in the V&A. I felt that the museum would really understand this personal project and offer them the perfect home.”
Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A, said: “Mary McCartney has a talent for taking candid photographs that celebrate the extraordinary in the everyday. She has a keen eye for detailed observation and a personal drive to capture otherwise unseen intimate moments. I’m delighted that we can show Mary’s fine prints alongside highlights from our historic and contemporary photography collections in our new Photography Centre.”
Mary McCartney took up photography in her youth and has since exhibited around the world. Her photography strives to capture moments in time and find the beauty in the everyday. She began making black and white prints with her Leica R7 camera in the 1990s, influenced by photographers Linda McCartney, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand and Jacques Henri Lartigue. After discovering the work of American photographer William Eggleston, she developed her interest in colour photography and now works with both, switching between film and digital, dependent on the nature of each project.
Mary McCartney’s photographs go on display in the V&A’s new Photography Centre from 12 October 2018. Her pictures join the National Collection of the Art of Photography, held at the V&A. It is one of the largest and most important collections of historic and contemporary photographs in the world. On Monday 22 October, McCartney will be in conversation with V&A Curator, Susanna Brown, to talk about her work, family and inspirations and how the three often collide. The event is part of the V&A’s Photography Spotlight – a month-long series of events and activities to celebrate the opening of the new Photography Centre.