From Where I Stand – Mary McCartney at the National Portrait Gallery

I really wanted to dislike this. I really wanted to be able to walk round this small exhibition in the space between the NPG bookshop and cafe and conclude: some people only get where they are because they have famous parents. Then I could have a proper old rant about the end of meritocracy and how our society is getting less and less equal. And whilst the rant is still valid this is the wrong point to start from because these images – lacking perhaps only a defining style to unify them – are excellent.

Beginning with a striking 1995 image of Linda and Stella McCartney and working round via a collection of insanely famous people all caught in the most flattering ways. We’re not quite in the glamourouse Beaton-captured world of the rich and lovely captured by one of their own but everybody looks so absolutely on the money it’s hard not to believe that the sessions that produced them were anything other than simply lovely. As said, there doesn’t seem to be a defining McCartney style but in this selection each chosen method simply works – I love the British film directors shot (above) which is all external, slightly awkward and brings a smile and then compare that to, for example, the image of Lily Cole which is neutral, studio and simple – and beautiful.

McCartney’s work is getting to be heavily featured in the main collection at the National Portrait Gallery and this exhibition can only enhance her reputation. There’s also a nice hardback catalogue coming in at a more than reasonable £19.95 – good value when compared to the obscene amount charged for the catalogue to the recent Thomas Lawrence exhibition.

There’s more detail on the National Portrait Gallery page here.


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