Mary McCartney: ‘My mum sang backing vocals on Let It Be’

The photographer, 47, on meeting the Queen, fear of flying and whistling really loudly

Photography is like magic to me. I was six or seven when my mum [photographer Linda McCartney] first took me to her dark room in Soho. I remember her placing a piece of white paper into the water bath and a black and white image appearing. I don’t remember what the picture was of: probably my dad, as they’d been on tour.

People would say I only got work because of my surname when I first started out. I’ve been in photography for over 20 years now, and I don’t think people commission me because of my name. At some point, the commissions would have dried up if I didn’t do what I do well.

Meeting the Queen was nerve wracking. I was asked to take her pictures at Buckingham Palace to mark her becoming the longest-reigning British monarch last September. It was definitely a moment for me, standing there in a room waiting for her to come in. She’s very switched on, very focused and in control. Which is what you want your queen to be, isn’t it?

Most people feel uncomfortable in front of a camera. They find it very hard to be themselves. Getting a natural expression, rather than someone’s “camera face”, is always my aim.

I can whistle really loudly. You know the two-fingered whistle? That. People are usually really surprised that I can do it.

I’m not a good plane traveller. My mum’s mother died in the first commercial airline crash in America – that big Pan Am flight – so I think knowing that has had quite a big effect on me. I try to rationalise it: there’s more chance of being in a car accident than in a plane crash.

My greatest regret is not having taken more pictures of my family when I first started out. I think when I started I thought, “Don’t be obvious, don’t take pictures of your family,” and now I look back and dearly wish I had.

Interrupting people mid-sentence is my worst habit. I can’t help myself. I get overexcited in the middle of a conversation and I just butt in.

I’m not an angry person. It’s always the last resort to snap. I tend to let things build up and then it all comes out in a big rush, but not very often.

My favourite Beatles song has to be “Let It Be”. It’s the most personal one to me as it references my grandmother Mary, and my mum sang backing vocals on it. We were really close. She was quite a cool chick.

I don’t like to eat things that have been killed for my plate. When I left home I did try meat and fish, and I liked it, but it didn’t feel good so I stopped again. The environmental impact of eating animals is enough to keep me a vegetarian for life.

I’m always aware of how fortunate I’ve been in life. It’s not something I take for granted at all.

An exhibition of Mary McCartney’s photographs, entitled Paris Nudes, will take place at Studio 57 in Paris from mid-October


Shahesta Shaitly

The GuardianTramp

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