Week Forty Six
Hannah Starkey (1971-)
Untitled, 2002

Hannah Starkey makes photographic images that are carefully staged and constructed, usually of a single female figure or a small group of female figures. Employing actors for these roles, their task is to stare into the distance, sometimes at walls or mirrors; sometimes seen as a mirrored reflection or through smoke. Almost like mannequins, they remain caught in time; a particular moment in a narrative. Because of this her work is often described as drawing on the language of cinema.

All her works are untitled, leaving room for the viewer’s narrative; and also suggests the unfixedness of a moment in time. Her women are both passive and active, engaged in everyday activity such as sitting in a café or waiting on a street corner. She describes her work as “explorations of everyday experiences and observations of inner city life from a female perspective.

Born in Belfast, Starkey makes the relation between the work she makes and the relationship to her mother –“she was a role model, a great exceptional woman”. Alongside this she carries memories of seeing how strong Belfast women were, fighting for what was right. She studied Photography and Film at Napier University, Edinburgh, followed by an MA in photography at the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1997.

What she said:

I suppose this is naturally how we think about narrative. I have to make it so that the picture isn’t a set of contradictions. It has to be nothing and everything. It’s a fleeting moment, yet it’s a scene that is so still that it seems to continue. It’s trying to get the balance of those contradictions into the single image that evokes some of the references to film, or painting I suppose.

Mirror reflections for me are a really good analogy for my photography because they picture the interior and exterior on one plane…reflections are the only way we see ourselves in the world outside photography.

The women in the photographs are turned away from your gaze, it was almost like a representation of my own emotions at the time. Turning away from culture, history, world dominated by man.

What others have said:

“The cinematic mode of contemporary photography comprises a diverse range of practices and Starkey’s near narrative photography is one particular type that needs to be differentiated from Cindy Sherman’s mimicry of film production stills or Gregory Crewdson’s elaborate staging of cinematic scenarios. What all of these artists’ work has in common, however, is the evocation of the quintessentially cinematic emotions of desire, doubt or anxiety.”
Margaret Iversen, co-director of Aesthetics After Photography

Why I like her:

Her work creates an atmosphere where we can question what is real and what is a story? Did this really happen? It plays with the idea of the gaze; she gives us permission to look as a voyeur, at these women as they live out their lives.

Hannah Starkey, Back-Next, 2002


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