Radical Women

Gwyneth Paltrow has (whether fairly or not) earned herself a reputation as a bit of a goodie two shoes – a smugly blogging yummy mummy, more interested in the world of organic groceries than rock n roll.

Self-portrait, Nashville, 2004.

Source: Copyright Mary McCartney

Self-portrait, Nashville, 2004.

It’s a testament, then, to photographer Mary McCartney’s skill that her image of Paltrow styled as a Blond Ambition-Tour era Madonna transports every inch of her into the conical breasted provocateur of the woman she’s aping.

Let Me Out, Long Island, 1995.

Source: Copyright Mary McCartney

Let Me Out, Long Island, 1995.

McCartney’s knack to create images that at once seem stark and candidly intimate is to be showcased in a new exhibition opening this week at The Lowry in Salford, featuring images of women including Marianne Faithful, Joni Mitchell, Björk and Helen Mirren.

Laughing Ladies, Royal Opera House, London, 2004.

Source: Copyright Mary McCartney

Laughing Ladies, Royal Opera House, London, 2004.

The show, entitled Developing: Photographs by Mary McCartney will feature previously unseen photographs alongside images from publications such as Harper¹s Bazaar and Vogue. She’s more than just Paul and Linda’s daughter, then.

It’s an almost exclusively female cast – with the exception of Morrissey, and a few others – shot in a way that strikes a balance between spontaneity and performance.

Tracey as Frida, London, 2000.

Source: Copyright Mary McCartney

Tracey as Frida, London, 2000.

Many of the subjects are playing a role: as with Gwyneth, Tracey Emin is dressing up. She becomes Frida Kahlo (an acknowledgement, perhaps, of a certain similarity to the notoriously heavy browed artist); while Beth Ditto, singer with The Gossip is by contract very much dressed down, captured sporting nothing but a bed sheet.

Other highlights are this gorgeous image of a ballerina perched in a sink:

Ballerina in Sink, Royal Opera House, London, 2004.

Source: Copyright, Mary McCartney

Ballerina in Sink, Royal Opera House, London, 2004.

And the wonderfully off-beat expression of Vivienne Westwood captured here:

Vivienne, London, 2008.

Source: Copyright Mary McCartney

Vivienne, London, 2008.

The show forms part of The Lowry’s Radical Women Month series of exhibitions and events, and quite rightly so. McCartney’s women are certainly radical – and rendered even more when seen through her lens.

 Developing: Photographs by Mary McCartney runs until 9 June The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays M50

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