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