‘Off Pointe – A Photographic Study of The Royal Ballet After Hours’ by Mary McCartney. This stunning series of black & white photographs reveal an unseen aspect of the world of ballet captured through the eyes of a curious spectator.


These intimate and insightful images show both the ups-and-downs, the prestige and the chaos of life behind-the-scenes at the Royal Ballet, and the contrast between the sometimes grueling, painful lifestyle of the dancers and their fairy tale performances.


Many of the shots show unexpected contradictions: a muscular male ballet dancer having a cigarette between acts; naked ballerinas drinking coke in their dressing room at the Opera House; and a dancer eating an over-stuffed bagel after a night of clubbing. The photographs dispel many a myth about the life of the dancers and show that the dancers work hard, but play hard too.

Explaining about her experience with the company, McCartney says “I was extremely fortunate to get a glimpse of the blood, sweat, tears and laughter that make up a Royal Ballet tour. I have shot portraits of musical figures my entire career but this was a very different and moving experience”.


The images produced manage to portray both the harsh realities of working in such a demanding profession with the storybook glamour that the ballet also provides. This rare glimpse into the lives of dancers highlights the exhausting realities and the fairytale performances they face.


This series has been touted as McCartney’s coming-of-age work, despite her long-standing career in photography. Inspired by her mother Linda McCartney, who was never without a camera, Mary McCartney started off as a photo-editor for music book publisher Omnibus Press. Since then, she has become a renowned portrait and fashion photographer.


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