By ANDY GRAY
Mike McCartney has been taking photographs most of his life. Some capture celebrities, whether it's images of Bono or Alice Cooper visiting his hometown of Liverpool, England, performers at the 2005 Live 8 concert or shots of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis in the early 1960s when he was on the road with ''our kid,'' the term of affection he uses for his older brother, Paul McCartney of The Beatles.
Photo by Tom Mallon
Mike McCartney will speak at the Butler Institute of American Art Trumbull Branch as part of the Thomas Schroth Visiting Artist Series.
Celebrities are a popular lure for galleries hoping to draw visitors who spend more time watching E! cable network instead of visiting museums. That's why McCartney was pleased that the Butler Institute of American Art was more interested in showing his photographs of Scotland's North Highlands.
''That the Butler Institute of American Art have asked a Liverpudlian to show his Scottish North Highlands images, I find that absolutely fascinating,'' McCartney said during a telephone interview from his home in Liverpool.
He suggested a show he put together for the opening of the Museum of Liverpool last year that included some of those celebrity images, ''But they said, no thank you, can we have your Scottish pictures? I thought, absolutely wonderful. You're purely being judged on your photographs. It's a great honor.''
WHAT: ''Mike McCartney's North Highlands''
WHEN: July 13 through Sept. 2
WHERE: Butler Institute of American Art Trumbull Branch, 9350 E. Market St., Howland
HOW MUCH: Admission is free.
LECTURE: McCartney will speak at the Butler Trumbull at 8 p.m. July 12 as part of the Thomas Schroth Visiting Artist Series. Admission to the lecture is free, but seating is limited. For reservations call 330-743-1107 Ext. 210 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Doors will open at 7 p.m., and seating is general admission.
''Mike McCartney's North Highlands'' will open next month at the Butler Institute of American Art Trumbull Branch in Howland, and McCartney will speak at the gallery at 8 p.m. July 12 as part of the Thomas Schroth Visiting Artist Series in partnership with Kent State University's College of the Arts. He also will attend the public opening of the exhibition on July 13.
Louis Zona, director of the Butler, said the uniqueness of the Scottish landscape and architecture was appealing, and the exhibition showcases McCartney's skills as a photographer.
''First of all, he has a terrific sense of composition,'' Zona said. ''There's a photo I remember of a bent-over road sign called 'Passing Place.' I don't know if it's even going to be in the show, but it's a good indication of how he discovers structure in nature and his eye for organization that is very appealing.
''He also plays with textures in a beautiful way. The visual elements are of special interest to him. It's not just conceptual, but also the visual aspect of the photography, which encompasses composition and surface. There's one that looks like mortar shells that is this beautiful repetitive pattern of line and shape and color and texture that is just really, really beautiful. He has a natural eye for it, and you can tell he's been a photographer for a long time.''
McCartney, 68, first picked up a camera at age 12, shortly after his mother's death. He saw some giant seagulls flying over the back garden of their home and wanted to get a picture.
''We were Liverpool, working-class people ... A camera was only used for important family occasions. But I sneaked it from mum and dad's cupboard and took the photographs.''
When he got the film developed, the only things he saw were tiny black dots for the gulls because he was standing too far away.
''I realized there was more to photography than meets the eye,'' he said. ''I went to the library and got all the books out on photography. That's where my love of photography started, and it's never ended. I can't stop.''
A camera is his ever-present companion ''It's like a lady's handbag,'' he said. ''It just goes over my shoulder like a lady's handbag ... Whenever I think I'll have a night off, have nothing to do with photography, relax and enjoy the evening, as soon as I do it, I'll see a photo.''
It wasn't until 20 years later that he found out Beatles' manager Brian Epstein had a nickname for him - ''Flash Harry.'' This was in the pre-Beatlemania days, when the Beatles were the opening act for American stars touring in England. The Beatles would be done with its set and ready to head to the next city, and McCartney still would be taking pictures of the headliners and testing out his new flash attachment. They'd stand in the balcony and wait to see McCartney's flash go off to track him.
''Brian Epstein said to his assistant, 'There's Flash Harry. Get him in the van so we can get off','' McCartney said.
''Mike McCartney's North Highlands'' will feature 36 photographs McCartney shot in 2008 when he was commissioned to take pictures in the distinctive region that has inspired poets and artists for centuries.
''These people could live in Inverness or Glasgow, and they choose to live on the top of Scotland away from the whole of Britain, so of course people like that are absolutely fascinating.''
The book McCartney published from the trip shows the range of his work. There are beautiful landscapes and images capturing the area's unique architecture with castle-like structures built hundreds of years ago.
There are more journalistic shots of the people and industry of the region. And there's a playful tone to some of the images, whether it's ''The Triptych,'' where McCartney positioned his camera to make a light fixture resemble a Vietnamese pottery hat over the people beneath it, or in staged photographs like ''Too Many Truffles, Francoise,'' where chocolate factory workers pose with truffles over their eyes and mouth.
''Maybe it's because I'm a Liverpudlian, I get bored quickly,'' he said. ''I live to give people a variety ... My life has been a rollercoaster, up and down. I find that far more interesting that way. You learn to appreciate when you're number one or you're 'resting,' as we actors say, which means out of work.''
While photography has dominated his life, McCartney (using the name Mike McGear) had a pop career of his own. His theatrical band Scaffold had several top 5 British hits, including ''Thank You Very Much,'' ''Lily the Pink'' and ''Liverpool Lou,'' and its own television series.
McCartney said he is looking forward to his trip to Trumbull County next month. He's been doing some research online and made reference to Courthouse Square and some other local landmarks over the course of an hour-long conversation. But he was surprised and pleased to learn that one of the stars of ''Modern Family,'' which is one of his favorite television shows, is a Youngstown native (Ed O'Neill).
He also didn't know about the Warren connection with Foo Fighters' frontman Dave Grohl, who he's met on several occasions. McCartney said he has a photo he took at one of ''our kid's shows'' where Grohl was watching from the side of the stage with his daughter, who would have been 2 or 3 at the time. Grohl's daughter decided she wanted to go say hi to ''Uncle Paul,'' and McCartney snapped a shot of Grohl catching her before she could get on stage.
The images shown at the Butler-Trumbull will be better than the original exhibition in Scotland, McCartney said, because he had more time to work closely with prestigious printmaker Coriander Studio to get the photographs exactly how he wanted them. Coriander's clients include pop artist Peter Blake (who did the cover for The Beatles' ''Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band''), Storm Thorgerson (who did most of Pink Floyd's album covers) and Damien Hirst (who has been called the world's richest artist). And the exhibition improves on the book, where some of the photographs were cropped.
''They have to chop them down to fit them in,'' he said. ''And because you want to see your 'photees' in a book, you have to go along with it.''