Mary McCartney - Page 15 - the Fashion Spot
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Mary McCartney and Simon Aboud attending the launch of Mary McCartney's cook book 'FOOD' at Liberty in London.
May 3, 2012 -

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Mary McCartney signs her book 'Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking' at Selfridges. London, England - 28.05.12


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Mary McCartney: 'Food' and Family
The Photographer on Her Mum, Vegetarian Myths and Why She Will Never Be
Martha Stewart

Mary McCartney takes one look at me and begins dictating her favorite
breakfast smoothie recipe: one banana, a tablespoon of milled flax seeds, one
cup of rice milk, a small tablespoon of superfood powder and a scoop of whey
protein. "That way, you will be set up for the day," she says, regarding
me in a maternal, slightly concerned fashion. "I mean, when did you last

I have known McCartney for 15 years. She shot her first fashion pictures
for me when I was editor at Frank magazine in 1998, to accompany the diary
her sister Stella wrote about putting together her first collection for the
fashion brand Chloé. Over the years, as her fame as a photographer has
grown, we have worked together on various projects. Now, as working mums on the
same school run, we continue to bump into each other, occasionally stopping
to chat and compare teenage-boy war stories. McCartney last year gave
birth to her fourth child—her second son with film director Simon Aboud; she
has two others with former husband Alistair Donald.
This month, the 42-year-old launched her cookbook "Food," inspired by the
memory, cooking methods and recipes of her beloved mother, the late Linda
McCartney. Mary has been a consultant on her mother's brand Linda McCartney
Foods for over a decade

My mum was a rock 'n' roll cook. She cooked more on instinct than by
measuring. She appreciated food. She would never, for example, have eaten a Mars
bar when she could eat really good chocolate.
For mum, the kitchen was the social hub. She always liked people coming in
and hanging out with her while she cooked. I'm the same. I like to cook
for a reason—mainly for the kids, or if I have friends coming over.
My parents would challenge each other to cook great veggie meals. My dad
was always saying: Right, well, if I'm no longer eating meat, then what can
we eat that is as delicious? He is a northern guy, and everything at that
time revolved around the meat on the plate. It still does, I think, as
opposed, for example, to Italy, where meat is just an ingredient, not the
main constituent of a meal.
There's a preconception that veggie food is complicated and
time-consuming. I wanted to dispel that. I like to spend about 30 minutes or less on a
recipe, and I use ingredients that are easily obtainable.
My mum never wore an apron when she cooked, and neither do I. When I look
back on her style, I think of it as easy and cool. The kitchen was no
different to anywhere else in terms of how she dressed. I think if you are
relaxed, it comes through in your cooking. I will admit, though, that having a
mum who wore weird stuff and argyle socks was kind of embarrassing when I
was at school.

My boys cook with me. I learned so much from my mum about where food comes
from and how to prepare it; I figure they will do the same. Plus, they are
much more likely to eat it if they have had a hand in preparing it.
I always said no to writing a book because it's not my arena. I'm a people
person, which is why I'm a photographer—I like to tell a story with
pictures not words. Writing is too much like homework. But then, because I
support Meat Free Mondays and I wanted to illustrate to people that veggie food
can be interesting and easy, I agreed. When the book first arrived, I looked
at it and thought: Now, this is why I did it.

Actually, I finally said yes to the book because my husband pitched the
idea to me. He has an advertising background, so he's very persuasive. He
pitched the idea of us having this recent baby, too.
Food carries with it so many memories of my family. My sister does the
same thing with clothes that I do with food. When I look at Stella's
collections, I see a bit of my mum's boho and vintage influence and some of my
American grandfather's seersucker, lawyer-suits vibe. When I go to watch
Stella's runway shows, I feel very nostalgic.
I read a recent review of my book and it said, "nice pictures, but I bet
she didn't come up with the recipes." I was like, What!?, because I came up
with all the recipes, which were really what I grew up with but healthier—
my mum used a lot of cream. I try to enhance what I already know and love,
and make it indulgent but good for you.
I tried to treat the food I was photographing like I would the portrait of
a person. There was no food varnishing on my shoots—I didn't even have a
prop stylist. It was manic. I was making the food, then putting it onto or
into vintage-y plates and bowls, then sticking it somewhere like a
windowsill and framing the shot.

As a family, we have bad memories of chargrilled vegetables and couscous,
which was traditionally all that
was on offer in restaurants in the '70s if you were vegetarian.
Consequently, neither appears in my book or on my table—ever!
Everything that surrounds food is really complicated. There's so much
shame attached to what we eat and guilt about what we weigh. I think
celebrating good, healthy food is part of the answer. Wouldn't it be interesting if
every person in the country could have a therapy session about how they feel
about food?
I have a very clear memory of the first time food changed my mood. I was
having a bad day and my aunt took me out, and I had a grilled cheese
sandwich, chips and a milkshake. I remember realizing afterward that the meal had
actually made me feel better.

My step-grandmother on my mum's side taught me to bake. She was French and
a little scary—always saying things like: Children do not run in the
apartment. But when I got older, we became friends through cooking. She taught
me the value of measuring things and of having an oven thermometer. Those
two things are fundamental to my cooking today

My dad loves home baking, and I think there's a link between my interest
in food and making people happy. I love it if everyone eats everything on
their plate.

You can tell a good restaurant by the excellence of their vegetarian
dishes or menu. I like Raymond Blanc's Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, E&O in Notting
Hill, Le Caprice and Scott's—places with a nice ambience.
I'm a huge fan of straightforward, chuck-it-all-in cooks like Nigel Slater
and Jamie Oliver, who celebrate food, and I detest anything complicated.
What's the deal with all that foamy, fiddly stuff?
I remember my childhood as very normal. We went to a comprehensive, where
we kept our heads down because we didn't want to be seen as different. We
ate at a certain time, did our homework and, every so often, we'd go on an
amazing trip somewhere that would remind us that our circumstances weren't
quite like everyone else's.

I think part of the reason my dad looks so good is that he eats properly.
He would never skip a meal. Often, if he's on his own, he will eat
something from my mum's range and make himself vegetables or a salad.

I'm not going to become a Martha Stewart. There are no books planned on
how my kitchen or home looks. I can't even remember the name of the cooker I
use, except to say that it's a double oven and it's good. I have been
approached a number of times about doing a cooking show for TV. My husband is
pitching me on that now, so we'll see what happens.
I'm obsessed by Amelia Rope—a chocolate range available at Liberty. It's
really expensive, so I eat a tiny bit at a time. I love the Pale Lime with
Sea Salt. [Also] Cire Trudon candles—again very expensive, so I don't buy
too many, but I

I like to be comfortable and practical, but stylish.... I want to be able
to walk wherever I go. I wear my sister Stella's clothes a lot, but never
the whole look. I mix everything up, which is what my mum did, so I'd wear
Stella's trousers with a vintage blouse, a nice knit cardi and flip-flops.
I wear Stella's L.I.L.Y. [standing for Linda I Love You], Penhaligon's
Bluebell and Agent Provocateur's Maitresse Gold, which my husband bought me.
I'm very inspired by my mum. She liked vintage—pretty tea dresses and nice
knits. I can't see a piece of neon clothing without thinking of her.
Stocking a Kitchen, Mary McCartney-Style
•Heavy-bottomed frying pans: small, medium and large
•Nonstick frying pans: large (around 28 centimeters) and small or medium
(around 20 centimeters)
•Magimix food processor—but I prefer hand-chopping
•Chopping boards in various sizes—I'm a Virgo, so I need to control the
size of everything that's chopped. Two large, wooden boards for veg and one
dedicated to fruit, so you don't get garlic or onion flavor on fruit.
•Kitchen Aid mixer for baking
•Roasting and cake tins
•Sharp knives: a selection of approximately six in a wooden block; my
favorite is the 13-centimeter, serrated vegetable chopping knife.
•Wooden spoons
•Veg and zest peelers
•Weighing scales
•Oven thermometer

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Attendees of pop artist Sir Peter Blake's 80th birthday party held at Royal Albert Hall.
June 29, 2012

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Mary McCartney: Speaking Words Of Wisdom
Posted: 15/08/2012

She peers out from inside her father's sheepskin coat on the cover of his debut solo LP, McCartney. It's 1970 and she's the firstborn child of one half of perhaps the world's greatest songwriting partnership. So enters Mary McCartney into the world of photography: as a subject.

"I was born and bred in London," says Mary, "and I'm still based in London, but I've recently been in Sweden where I've currently an exhibition, and in Sardinia where I was doing a shoot for Mandarin Oriental."

Mary McCartney, 42, as elder sister to Stella and brother James, with an older half sister Heather, has quietly forged a career as a photographer specialising in portraiture, with A-listers of the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Jude Law happy to sit for her.

"I grew up around photography, watching my mother [Linda McCartney] taking pictures," says Mary. "She and my dad collected great photography books, so I saw those from an early age. They were beautiful vintage black and white prints. So you'd be right in saying my mum got me into the craft.

"I worked with my mum in her archive, helping her edit the projects she was working on, but I've had no formal training, except for a very short course on how to use an SLR to establish the basic principles of exposure and film speed."

A passing car drowns out our conversation. 'In the old days when I liked to do interviews, I'd go to the Electric in Notting Hill, but that was noisy too,' she says, laughing. "I still use film cameras for personal or exhibition work. But when I'm doing commercial projects I'll use digital. I like my photographs to have the look of having been lit by natural light, despite the necessary higher production values."

As a local, does she think London's art scene remains vibrant? "Yes, there are some amazing painters out there at the moment. I was just looking at the exhibits for the National Portrait Gallery Award [for 2012] which were beautiful. There is definitely a public enthusiasm and hunger for art, and the talent is out there, but it's very difficult to get noticed these days. There are a lot of people very passionate about what they're doing.

"But how these artists get noticed will be the interesting thing, because gaining exposure is difficult.' The reason for this? 'The modern need for branding oneself might be the issue. Ten years ago there was no need for it," says Mary.

Ten years ago London was a different place, I venture. "Yes, you can see it when a shop closes down and you hope that something interesting will replace it, but what comes along is usually a chain coffee shop.

"This kind of loss is also evident in places like Soho which has lost a lot of interesting places such as The Colony Room. But thank god places like Bar Italia are still around. Bar Italia is almost like National Trust property! If that were to close down then I'd be very sad. When socialising in London I prefer to find interesting, atmospheric little places," she says.

"When I was nine, we moved out of London and then I moved back when I was 18. I got a job as a picture researcher in Soho at Omnibus Press. I wasn't actually taking pictures at this time. But when I got my first commission I thought that that was it, but in reality it took me a long time to build up my confidence and style. I learn about myself through how I take a picture and how I approach each job."

And how has she arrived at her photographic style? "I like my subjects to be relaxed, so my style is candid and informal. If I'm too overbearing they can look startled; I want people to reveal themselves. It's difficult to have subjects relax before a camera. When I started out I was in the background, observing, but now I'm engaged upfront, directing shoots and in control."

Can 'the eye' for taking photographs be taught? "Basic principles of composition can, but I think I've inherited my [photographic] eye. Most of my family can take good pictures. I grew up assuming everyone could take good pictures because of it, then I realised not everyone can. I was watching someone last week holding their camera at arm's length and it seemed as if they were intimidated by the camera itself," she says.

"My dad [Paul McCartney] is very encouraging. He has some of my work up on his walls, which is a good sign. I look for his opinion, because he has a good eye and appreciates photography and art. He worked with my mum in the same way too, so he's used to it."

Inspiration can be tricky for a photographer constantly at work. "I try and balance my commercial and art work. So I have two arms, as it were. The works of Jacques Henri Lartigue and Diane Arbus inspire me. Juergen Teller too. I like free-spirited photographers who don't take themselves too seriously.

"On a recent shoot, Beth Ditto was great to photograph. She has great energy. She had a punky ethos and doesn't like to plan too much, and I related to that because you can plan a set up in photography, but you must leave it to the moment as well, because that's when the unexpected can happen," says Mary.

"I'm not very techy, so if I'm off doing some personal work it's just me and my film camera. But I also love my iPhone. I'm actually having to ween myself off my iPhone because I've started to take too many pictures with it. I recently bought a more high-powered digital camera, but I like shooting on film."

So it's a case of keeping it simple? "Absolutely. I like a constant light source rather than flash. I can also light an area in which a subject can move around. There's that technique. I also have to be able to go off on my own with a camera. I like the balance of these two modes of working because it keeps me interested. I like variety," she says.

Is there more she can achieve, having photographed a wide variety of politicians, celebrities and lesser-known sitters over her 20-year career? "I feel I've loads more to do. I'll be exploring more and shooting more and I've got so many projects I want to see come to fruition. I like taking portrait pictures of interesting people and I also rely upon requests. I have an agent, so I also get booked that way."

For her commercial work, Mary keeps a tight-knit production team, eschewing the large entourages of some contemporary big name photographers. "I like photos with a sense of humanity attached to them,' she says gently. 'I'm interested in photographing people who are devoted to their professions, such as the series of portraits I did with ballet dancers [Off Pointe: A Photographic Study of the Royal Ballet After Hours]."

"I'm attracted by people who invest time, thought and passion in what they do," says Mary. "I'll always be a photographer. It's my hobby and my profession. It's my love."

© Jason Holmes 2012 / / @JasonAHolmes

Photograph by Simon Aboud


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Jay Joplin, Mary McCartney and Simon Aboud attend artist Tracey Emin's 49th Birthday at Annabels Night Club on July 3, 2012 in London, England.


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