Hannah Starkey

My tutor recently suggested I look at Hannah Starkey’s work. I remember seeing some a while ago. There was some work in the late 1990s that very much appealed to me with its soft tones and girls/women in everyday locations. Starkey works mainly with women, using actresses and acquaintances – collaborating with them to develop her scenes. Her images might be staged/constructed but they seem very natural to me.Charlotte Cotton (2009) refers to this photograph in describing Starkey’s use of the device of photographing subjects with their faces turned away from us so ‘…. we are not given enough visual information to make characterization the focal point of the image. Instead we make meanings from a dynamic process of connecting interior space and objects with the possible characters of the people depicted’ (Cotton, 2009:60). The compositional device itself reminds me of the work of Elina Brotherus, with the difference that we know who Brotherus is and can access considerable personal information about her. Starkey also uses reflections in mirrors as a reminder that we are not being reality, merely a reflection of something existed. This can give a brief hint of what lies behind the person in the mirror

Starkey had a solo exhibition in the US in 2013  of a new series In the Company of Mothers. A variety of scenes with the women’s eyes diverted from the camera, looking away or shielded with sun-glasses. Again, the colours, are soft and subtle and evoking a contemplative mood for me. I missed another, more recent  solo Exhibition in London of photographs where Starkey’s camera is focussed on the individual within a city environment. The associated press release comments that Starkey’s ‘interest in street photography and its ability to portray society within an art-historical and documentary context can be traced back to the flâneuse – female writers of the mid 1800s, such as Frances Trollope or George Sand – ‘who embody a feminist alternative to the male-driven tradition’. There’s reference to a book written by Lauren Elkin,  Flâneuse: The (Feminine) Art of Walking in Cities (2016). There is no information on Amazon so perhaps the books hasn’t yet been published.  I have emailed the publishers to make enquiries.

At the moment I am not envisaging using actors or acquaintances in my photography. I think I need more technical skill and general experience as yet although I hope that this something I can do in the future.




Cotton, c (2009) The Photograph As Contemporary Art, London: Thames & Hudson





19 thoughts on “Hannah Starkey

  1. I wonder how much different L3 courses will be by the time you get there Catherine. Your research in photographers are pretty much the same as in BOW and CS. Great insight. It may seem scary but you could try it with a family member or close friend instead of ‘actors’.


    • I have this problem of having family and friends who are camera-shy! I do enjoy the research Yiann but it will be nice to get to Level 3 (if ever) so that I can concentrate one theme. Still, the same artists do keep coming up as I’m working through Modules so I’m building quite a library of material.


  2. I wonder if you can use the flaneuse as a metaphor in rural landscape photography? Or does flaneuse not apply to rural but only to city landscapes? A very interesting read, thanks, Catherine.


    • That’s one of my queries.I don’t see why we can’t modernise and adapt terminology. I was recently invited to submit my blog posts to “The Elephants Journey” – a collaboration of urban photographers/artists who aim to return work back to the urban landscape. The fact that they invited me does show that there is a willingness to extend boundaries as it were. Maybe you and I could work on a collaborative project together.


  3. Thank you for that post as I lie Hannah Starkey a lot but haven’t got around to looking at her properly. I certainly get the flaneuse feel and the way she juxtaposes backgrounds or objects with her subjects. Makes street photography from this point of view much more interesting.


    • It does make street photography more interesting I think although it misses on the spontaneity, in the moment, aspect. I enjoy Hannah Starkey’s work very much; her colours have such a freshness about them.


    • So do I. I aim to develop a new genre – just need to think of an interesting name for it. I’ll look forward to reading your review of Hannah Starkey to add more to my resource list.


  4. Thank you for this post; very weill researched as always and also very timely of you 🙂 as my next project in UVC is The Flaneur and I have started already looking at this from a female angle so I will revisit Starkey. I like the edginess, the sense of unease, the hint of voyeurism that her images create for me.


  5. Another great research and an interesting post! You made me to look closely at Starkey’s works. I agree with you the first picture and the fact that we can’t see the subject’s face reminds me of the work of Elina Brotherus too.


  6. Pingback: Approaching the Assignment | Context and Narrative

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