Brief:- Assignment three – A narrative photograph – A staged photograph. A staged photograph is like a snapshot from a movie. It’s a ‘scene’, an event which you have constructed and captured at the perfect moment as a still photograph. It can be a simple ‘moment’ like a glance between two strangers on the street (Jeff Wall’s Mimic, 1982) or an elaborate recreation of a dramatic event (Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind, (after Hokusai), 1993). It can start with a simple event, like the postman peeping through the letter box, an old lady jumping over a fence or someone tripping over a paving stone. But you should explore it conceptually and make it weightier in meaning by embellishing it; monumentalizing the event even though it is small. In this way you could turn the postman picture into an allegory about privacy or the old lady picture into an allegory that changes perceptions about old age. Start by researching the work of Hannah Starkey.
Hannah Starkey (b 1971)
Fig. 1. Untitled (2007)
Initial thoughts – stylised art deco, classical, subdued but very rich tones, backstage at theatre? theatre bar? plush, expensive, alone, painted, modern art nouveau, space, lots of space (behind her, too her sides, in front of her), tatoo of female upon her arm looks very sad – a representation of the subjects state of mind), clarity of photo.
A woman is seated at a wooden bench in a theatre bar, she is smoking a cigarette, which is slightly obscuring her head, which is facing down and away from the camera. Symbolic, burned, stood up, hiding, maybe experiencing sadness or embarrassment. Her emotions are out of place for the environment that she is in, which although is a place where many tragedies are performed, they are pretense, whereas this characters emotions are for real. This is no performance, except it is. It’s a staged photograph, a performance representing a non-performance. I like the layered meaning within that.
What do I consider setting and props? I think that everything other than the model is a prop that creates the setting. The props are – chandelier, wooden bench, cigarette, glass with drink (half empty), tatoo, table lamp, mirror, wood panelled wall, stage curtain, stage door. Along with the space surrounding the woman they all combine to create a scene, in which she is very much alone within herself and isolated. There are very few colours, and therefore very few distractions. The figure is so prominent that I do not find the lighting to the top left a distraction, I am aware of it, but I am absorbed by the female sitting within her emotions.
Bloody hell, the mirror is wrong. The lamp is reflected in the mirror but the subject isn’t. If the lamp is a reflection then it has to be further away than the woman, and with the angle between the mirror and her, she should be reflected. A symbol that she is unworthy, does not exist, is unseen, overlooked, un-important. Un-important and yet completely prominent and dominant within the frame.
Fig. 2. Untitled (1999)
Initial thoughts – Holy trinity, judgement day, three young adults, grouped together, staring demeaningly at a separate female, distance, space between the group and individual. Three embossed figures which are representative of Christ above the group of women. The lone figure has her arms folded defensively in front of her body, she looks uncomfortable, unsettled. Muted colours, the people stand out clearly because of the colours, There is graffiti upon the wall. The group have a plain background behind them, which presents them in a neutral fashion, whereas the individual has the graffiti framing her head, which adds to the sense of alienation, insulted, dirty.
A young female has done something wrong, shameful even, and she is being judged by a group of girls because of her behaviour. She is an outcast facing her judgement day by the pure. Religious symbolism, which because of the demeaning looks from the group shows that the judgement is neither neutral nor corrective, its scornful and self-righteous. A reflection upon the ugliness of Christianity’s darker side, in which being right is more important than following the example of Christ. Condemnation over understanding, anger over forgiveness, hatred over love. The setting is a country where religious bigotry and sectarianism are rife, Ireland? Clothing has a dated look, so representative of the past rather than the present, and the staging reminds me, of 1980’s film Kes (Kes, film. 1970).
Figure 1 Starkey, H; 2007; Untitled [c-type print]; AT: https://www.maureenpaley.com/artists/hannah-starkey?image=9 (accessed on 18/06/2018)
Figure 2 Starkey, H; 1999; Untitled [c-type print]; AT: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/hannah_starkey_august.htm (accessed on 18/06/2018)
Feature Image Starkey, H; 2002; Untitled [c-type print]; AT: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/hannah_starkey_2002.htm (accessed on 18/06/2018)
Kes; [Film]; Prod Garnett, T; Kestral Film and Woodfall Film Productions; 111 minutes