Hannah Starkey

18th February 2020

I am not doing to well here. I was checking off my work to make sure everything was completed and I have found that I had not researched Gregory Crewdson or Hannah Starkey who both came with the Assignment three research.

I have completed Gregory Crewdson and now I am researching Hannah Starkey who also specialises in staged settings but this time, women in city environments.

My initial thoughts on looking at Starkey’s images were very similar to how I first perceived Crewdson’s which can be read on my blog page ‘Gregory Crewdson.’

The problem with the images are that they just melt into everyday life of TV and films in that they are so well staged it is just like looking at film stills or advertisements for films.

I did learn from researching Crewdson’s work that I do not have to fall in love with the images but I can learn from the photographers practices and like specific elements of the work.

So with this thought in mind I am going to research Starkey’s work and see if any aspect of her working methods or images do have a positive influence on me.

My first port of call for research was the Saatchi Gallery website. I actually took the complete text and two images from there because the text was very precise and informative. This can be seen below:

Using actors within carefully considered settings, Hannah Starkey’s photographs reconstruct scenes from everyday life with the concentrated stylisation of film. Starkey’s images picture women engaged in regular routines such as loitering in the street, sitting in cafes, or passively shopping. Starkey captures these generic ‘in between’ moments of daily life with a sense of relational detachment. Her still images operate as discomforting ‘pauses’; where the banality of existence is freeze-framed in crisis point, creating reflective instances of inner contemplation, isolation, and conflicting emotion.
Through the staging of her scenes, Starkey’s images evoke suggestive narratives through their appropriation of cultural templates: issues of class, race, gender, and identity are implied through the physical appearance of her models or places. Adopting the devices of filmography, Starkey’s images are intensified with a pervasive voyeuristic intrusion, framing moments of intimacy for unapologetic consumption. Starkey often uses composition to heighten this sense of personal and emotional disconnection, with arrangements of lone figures separated from a group, or segregated with metaphoric physical divides such as tables or mirrors.
Often titling her work as Untitled, followed by a generalised date of creation, her photographs parallel the interconnected vagueness of memory, recalling suggestions of events and emotions without fixed location or context. Her work presents a platform where fiction and reality are blurred, illustrating the gap between personal fragility and social construction, and merging the experiences of strangers with our own.

William A Ewing, Saatchi Gallery saatchigallery.com
Hannah Starkey, Untitled 1998
Image from Saatchi Gallery saatchigallery.com
Hannah Starkey, Untitled 2000
Image from Saatchi Gallery saatchigallery.com

I feel there are many similarities between Starkey’s and Crewdson’s work. They are both producing images with actors and using techniques that remind the viewers of the genre of films, we also find ‘…Starkey often uses composition to heighten this sense of personal and emotional disconnection…’ just as the actors in Crewdson’s images were. Below is the list that I had written about Crewdson’s work and it only slightly differs in that the locations used by Starkey are not always lavish.

  • Lavish sets and scenes
  • Theatrical
  • Film stills
  • Technical lighting
  • Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Lost (people)
  • Motionless (people)
  • Void (people)
  • Tormented (people)

I have to admit though with the use of clothed figures, women and the settings akin to street photography I am already getting a strong connection with Starkey’s work and I am really liking the concept behind her work.

I feel Starkey’s work is also more creative and she has thought about different locations compared to Crewdson only using his home town. She has also used locations imaginatively as we can see in the two images below with their use of shape, line, light and colour.

The best website to view a great selection of Starkey’s photographs is artnet art net.com The three images below are from artnet and are just mesmerising.

Hannah Starkey, Geraldine and the stag 2016
Image from artnet artnet.com

Photographer Hannah Starkey’s images explore female perspective both as the subject and viewer. The Northern Irish artist talks us through her process when it comes to creating an image and how having young daughters influenced her work. Starkey also gave us an exclusive look at project she worked on with images taken at the Women’s March in London in January 2017.


The notes below are taken from the above interview:

I found it interesting that the interview above is about a body of work. ‘Women’s March’ which is in fact street photography on a theme with some post production manipulation (see notes). This means that Starkey doesn’t just set up scenes but which are fiction but shoots from reality. I like this more, this way Starkey is covering the concept of ‘women’ in many different ways giving more breath of information to the viewer to ponder on.

One of the manipulation techniques in a piece of work that she explains to us in the video is connected with juxtaposing parts of an image. However the elements that are altered were at the scene at the time, she just moves them so that the composition is stronger and holds more symbolism or information.

In the case which is shown below, Starkey moved the flower into the composition. It was just out of the frame within the original shot, so she waited for a space to open up on the right hand side of the image, where her hand is showing us and then she dropped down the flower element. Starkey says “…it was just one little shift that you have to do… somewhere in between photography and painting.

Screenshot from above Tate YouTube video

I also found this interview interesting because it showed us behind the scenes and how and where Starkey works. I picked up ideas such as – she works in a studio in her garden, uses walls to print and then put up her work to analyse it. This is what we are encouraged to do with the OCA and one reason I am moving to a bigger house so that I have a studio for photography away from the creative art equipment of inks, paints and charcoal etc… and a wall to put my work on.

The images below show Starkey’s working environment and the screenshots have been taken from The Tate YouTube video.

The following notes are my thoughts, words and phrases that I have read from different articles on Starkey and wanted to write down and/or comment on now that I have completed reading about her. They are things that I have remembered:

After researching Starkey I have come to the conclusion that I like her work very much.

As a woman do I relate to her work with a bond of womanhood? The simple answer to this is “No!”.

I have always thought of the concept of ‘women rights bonding’ within art and photography as boring and equally repetitive. Most of the work I have come across have the same messages to give. Messages and imagery that runs through the work in equal measures without anything particularly standing out and screaming to me – “For FUCK sake we are WOMEN, WE are WORTH SOMETHING!”

I personally, would like a decapitated head being swung from someones hand, dripping with blood while in the other hand they have a sign with some strong message on it. A type of biblical image but in modern times, brutal and very illegal but dynamic. Pussy footing in this subject always seems, to me, a richer persons luxury or a poorer persons thuggery and actually doesn’t really capture the sadness and anger of how many women feel.

So what do I like about her work? The compositions, use of colour and light are very well thought out. I now know from her interview that she often manipulated her work by adding parts of the image into the composition so that it becomes far more interesting and symbolic. It is so nice to hear a photographer admit to this and to see how the work benefits from manipulation. So many people I speak too are ‘anti-manipulation’ within photography. This I find quite hard to hear because a bulk of my work is very manipulated, in fact to such extent that I call it creative cross-app photography.

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