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Through the Lens of Sonny McCartney

By Kicki Pallin

He wants his work to reflect his love for the craft, and the passion clearly shines through in his photos. The exhibition Photo Pass opened in November in Stockholm, Sweden, and already on the opening night, it became a big success. Sometimes in life, you fight your passion, because it’s too close for you to see what it is. Sonny McCartney shares that the last thing he thought he would end up being was a photographer, but that he has been fortunate enough to be able to work with some of the biggest bands and artists in the world. With a couple of high profile photographers in his family, he just humbly says, “maybe it’s in my genes”. 

Sonny McCartney and his proud father, Mike McCartney

You studied photography in Liverpool and started taking photos of your brother´s band in various venues, but what was it that made you really discover your passion for photography? 

I grew up in a very creative household so slipping into the world of photography was an easy one I suppose. That and my Dad, aunt and cousin are all photographers as well.

You have done various commissions, everything from journalistic and portrait to fashion, but you say there is something special with music photography. Can you put into words what it is for you?

Music photography will always be a passion of mine, from such a young age I went to some amazing concerts so I always had a great interest in it. I started taking my camera along to concerts when I was 16 and haven’t stopped since. The feeling of being at a concert with hundreds (if not thousands) of people all enjoying the same experience is something really special.

Photographer Sonny McCartney in front of his father’s favourite photograph with American musician Dave Grohl
Mike McCartney touched by a gift from an exhibition visitor, a Liverpool Institute booklet from 1968

Your Photo Pass exhibition has been a success in Sweden, how come you chose Stockholm as one of the places for this exhibition?

It’s been such an honour to bring my work to Sweden, the only times I’ve been to Stockholm was to photograph a concert so to get the chance to showcase my work here has definitely added a page to my life. Also, I never chose Stockholm, Stockholm chose me!

There are some spectacular photos that are part of your exhibition. When I met you and your father, you shared that you have some favourites. Could you please say a bit more about these photos and what they mean to you? 

Thank you so much. To pick a favourite is really hard, for me a favourite is not just the image itself, I think about the experience that led to me taking a certain image, or what an image means to me. For example, the Liam Gallagher picture is quite rare as you will hardly ever see him with a guitar in his hands, this was all due to Liam feeling relaxed with me during our time together which led to such an organic image.

Capturing a moment, his uncle Paul McCartney
A favourite of Sonny McCartney – Liam Gallagher

You are not only a photographer, but you also call yourself the ”proud father of Scale in Liverpool”, it seems like a very special place. How did this all come about? 

Well back in 2018, I noticed a lack of studios in Liverpool so I decided to open up a studio that would help push the creative market in my hometown. I wanted to make a space that London clients would want to use and also have a space that helped as many local businesses as possible, while also trying to push to be as sustainable as possible.

Looking into the future, what are your hopes and dreams? Both for you personally and on a more global scale. 

My hopes and dreams are to push myself more and to create more. I’m also looking into becoming a filmmaker, so things like short films, music videos etc… Also looking into working with charities and other organisations in the near future as well.

Last but not least, for any of our readers that are looking to know the secret behind a great photo, could you share a few special tips?

 I think capturing a great photo is about passion, having a passion for your craft. But saying that, photography is used by everyone, be it a pro camera or just your phone, I think a great photo is about capturing a moment that people can cherish.

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