CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Sussex Life today CLICK HERE

In good company

PUBLISHED: 15:58 24 September 2007 | UPDATED: 14:52 20 February 2013

Lighting up 
Not a sight you would expect to see backstage.

Lighting up Not a sight you would expect to see backstage. "I've been really surprised that dancers drink and smoke and stay up late but at the same time are really dedicated, says Mary. "I thought they would be very clean living and go to bed at ten"

She's photographed Jude Law, Ralph Fiennes and Cherie Blair and was inspired to become a photographer by her late mother Linda. Mary McCartney's first solo exhibition was a behind the scenes study of the Royal Ballet. It's now showing in Brighton ...

Sussex Life



THERE'S something magical about the Royal Ballet. Its dancers give fairytale performances delivered with a grace and style - a talent only few are blessed with. They tour the world mesmerising audiences with their interpretations of Swan Lake, The Snow Queen, The Nutcracker and more. Yet, theirs is a gruelling profession. A tiring schedule of performances packed into a career that lasts no more than a decade or so and inevitably takes its toll on their bodies and soul. It was this contradiction, between fact and fairytale, which intrigued Mary McCartney.

It was 2004 and Mary was out with friends in a Soho bar when she was introduced to Vanessa Fenton, choreographer and member of the Corps de Ballet - a meeting that would provide the inspiration for Mary's first exhibition, Off-Pointe.

"It occurred to me that they are nothing like what you'd expect of a dancer at the Royal Ballet," she says. "I was surprised to see them in a bar. I suppose like many people I thought they would be very clean living and go to bed at ten. I had been offered exhibitions before and so I thought why do one on the dancers. I was really interested in what they are like when they are not on stage. Were they really these clean-living, fitness-obsessed people that everyone thinks they are?"



Subscribe to Sussex Life Now


01858 438832




She was clear about what she wanted and managed to persuade the dancers to buy into the idea. "I went and sat in on a couple of performances and picked out a couple of dancers that I'd like to photograph," says Mary. "It was really important that they felt comfortable with me around as I wanted to capture them off-stage."

Mary spent two months with the dancers, including a spell in New York and was determined not to photograph them during performances. Throughout the project, Mary was able to capture glimpses of the dancers' lives backstage, not seen before and at complete odds with the traditional image of the ballet. Take Cinderella Converse for example. "One of my favourites," says Mary. "It's during one of the shows and the dancer, Gemma, is just going out to get a packet of crisps."

There's also the striking image of dancer Josh, lighting a cigarette between appearances. "He just looked so good and yet there was having a cigarette break. There was a real family atmosphere among the dancers, and I hope this comes across."


Brought up on her parents' farm near Rye, East Sussex , Mary lived a relatively normal life and along with her younger sister Stella, brother James and half sister Heather was brought up as a vegetarian. She was inspired to become a photographer by her late mother Linda, who died from breast cancer in 1998. She began taking portrait images specialising in fashion photography in 1992 and also became the picture editor for a book publisher. But it was the Off-Pointe exhibition that was her first venture into exhibition photography...




Click HERE to read the full article in the Sussex Life digital archives



Subscribe to Sussex Life Now


01858 438832



0 comments

More from Out & About

Friday, November 9, 2018

10 of the most beautiful, inspiring and simply stunning photos of Sussex shared on Instagram over the past week...

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Sussex this month

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Clive Agran’s monthly investigation of Sussex’s hidden past turns homeward as he visits Bodiam, Northiam and Ewhurst Green

Read more
Monday, October 29, 2018

Sheffield Park and Garden near Haywards Heath is a paradise for photographers. Especially during the autumn months…

Read more
Monday, October 29, 2018

The skies of Sussex are sure to be lit up this November with some amazing fireworks and bonfire events taking place across the county

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

With late-night shopping, fairs, Christmas markets and plenty of food and drink, we’ve rounded up some of the best festive offerings in Sussex

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

With the South Downs, quaint villages and coastal trails, Sussex is a great place for a walk. Here we round up some of the best

Read more
Monday, October 22, 2018

From pumpkins to spooky activities, we take a quick look at some events on offer across Sussex this Halloween

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Disappear into the ancient oak woodland at Arlington on this short circular stroll

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

A rich local history, thriving annual festivals and a bounty of amenities make this East Sussex town hard to top

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Cuckfield’s Ockenden Manor offers a spectacular panorama while you eat

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

We explore Pulborough, a village with a long history and an unusual annual fundraiser

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Whether you live in Sussex or are here for a visit, the South Downs National Park really is a must-see part of this beautiful county. As these pictures prove...

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

We pick five scenic routes across Sussex that are suitable for wheelchairs, pushbikes and buggies

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory


Property Search