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Interview with Mary McArrow

An interview with Journalist and photographer Mary McArrow.


Mary McArrow


What initially sparked your interest in pursuing art, and how has your journey evolved since then?

It all started with my love for rock music. There is nothing that elevates my soul more than music. I always wanted to be a musician, and I’m not a bad singer, but I have absolutely no idea how to create music. So, I’ve found another way to express myself and my love for music. When I was a young girl, I used to read NME a lot. And I loved the pictures of rockstars taken by great photographers – sometimes they were much better than the articles! They told more; they expressed the spirit of rock’n’roll much better. So, I decided to become a photographer.


My grandfather was interested in photography, and I remember the magic of creation when you’re working with the photos under the red light, trying not to ruin the film... So, this art wasn’t completely new to me. Of course, now it’s way easier, I’m working with the modern cameras.


At first, I just tried to capture people’s emotions and show them through my pictures. I went to the gigs with my camera and took pictures of musicians for free, just to learn from the experience.


We did a project about British grassroots culture with my friend and artist Lisa Minaeva. We photographed and filmed young musicians who were not yet known and musicians who had already experienced their moment of fame and were no longer as popular.


Mary McArrow

It was a raw and amateur project, but we thought (and I still believe this to be true) that this punk roughness and shaky videos were the best way to capture the essence of this music. Not all the musicians we filmed agreed with our point of view, I think some of them expected us to do some kind of advertisement for their music. Unfortunately, our videos and photos were made not for advertisement. But they were good if you wanted to show what raw rock’n’roll is about. With all its dirty sound, free spirit and wild fun.


I think I realised then, that with my camera I can do both things: show people’s emotions and express my own feelings. And I can do it within any genre, not only portraits. I think now my photos are much better and probably they can even be used for advertisement, but I’m not interested in promotional photos, and I rarely use Photoshop. The only things I work with are light and colours, but for me it’s a part of artistic vision which makes photos closer to art, instead of using Photoshop too much which makes all the faces and things look still.


I realised then, that with my camera I can do both things: show people’s emotions and express my own feelings.

Can you tell us about a specific piece of your artwork that holds particular significance to you, and what inspired its creation?

One of my favourite pictures is ‘Bittersweet Symphony’. I accidentally took it while walking through Crouch End, one of the most mystic places in London. I remember my mood then, it was one of my first trips to London, I was crazy in love with this city.

 

It was autumn and everything looked like it was on fire and then I noticed a very stylish person walking down the street. And I don’t know why but ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ by Verve started playing in my head. I took the picture, worked with colour a bit… and I think this picture looks like а frozen music, as I wanted it to be.



Mary McArrow, Bittersweet Symphony, 2011
Mary McArrow, Bittersweet Symphony, 2011


How do you navigate the balance between staying true to your artistic vision and experimenting with new techniques or styles?

I’m very interested in new genres and techniques, I’m always ready to evolve. Sometimes I like to work on my old pictures and try to find the new look for them. I like to study, I’m in touch with British photographers such as Joe Lynn and Gary Lambert, I follow rock’n’roll photographers on Instagram, I am a big fan of Damon Baker, he does amazing work.

 

I’m also trying myself in hyper realism, but I’m not happy enough with the result yet. So yes, I’m ready to try new things and participate in some exciting projects, but of course it’s also very important for me to stay true to my own style.


I’m ready to try new things and participate in some exciting projects, but of course it’s also very important for me to stay true to my own style.

What role do you believe art plays in society, and how do you envision your work contributing to the artistic dialogue?

For me, art is a way to live and to understand reality. Sometimes I think that there is no other way to understand what happens inside the minds of other people than through their art or through their interests in art – such as favourite music, poems etc. That’s why I’m a bit scared of people who have no interest in any art at all.


Of course I’d like to leave my own mark in the history of photography, but I’d be pretty happy if I help people to understand something about themselves through my art – and about me.



Sometimes I think that there is no other way to understand what happens inside the minds of other people than through their art or through their interests in art – such as favourite music, poems etc.


Are there any upcoming projects or themes that you're excited to explore in your future artworks, and if so, what draws you to these ideas?

I love sport, especially football. I want to do a football photo project. I’d like to take a series of pictures about semi-professional Non-League football, about people who play not for the money or glory (though they may dream about it, of course), but for their love and their passion. It reminds me about myself and my passion to photography. I have my own YouTube channel about Non-League football, but I’d like to do a photo exhibition as well.




Mary McArrow


How do you hope your art will impact viewers, and what message or emotion do you aspire to convey through your creative expressions?

I’d like to pass on to people the same emotions and feelings I had when I took these pictures. It may be a love for the city or for someone, nostalgia, excitement, but it also may be sadness or fear. In other words, I’d like to be a musician who plays with a photo camera. 




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