Hannah Starkey – Review

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)

Starkey, H; 2007; Untitled [c-type print]; ATFig. 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.

Starkey, H; 1999; Untitled [c-type print]; ATFig. 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).

Illustrations

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)

Reference

Kes; [Film]; Prod Garnett, T; Kestral Film and Woodfall Film Productions; 111 minutes

A Significant Object – Exercise 3.7

Brief:- You probably own many significant objects, from a wedding ring to old clothes, trophies of achievement to mementos that recall special events or times of your life, like toys or records. Choose one of these to photograph. This mustn’t be a general thing like ‘flowers’ but something entirely specific to you. Respect the fact that this object matters to you. Photograph it carefully, thinking about how this object ought to be viewed through the camera. Consider the framing, viewpoint, background, placement, light and composition. Does the photograph (the representation) have the same meaning as the object itself ? Is there a difference? Now develop this exercise into a series of three photographs of similar objects. For example, if you chose to photograph your wedding ring, ask friends if you can photograph their wedding rings. If you photographed your home, photograph other people’s homes. Use exactly the same viewpoint, framing, lighting (as far as possible), background, etc., for each. This will help the three final photos fit together as a conclusive series. Look online at the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Note how the composition, framing and lighting is almost identical in each photograph and how this ‘gels’ the series together.

A significant object

Reflections

This does not work for me at all. It is a series that I need to re shoot, or change to an alternate significant object, one in which I can recreate a significant object alongside similar objects. All three photos represent spirituality and an altar, but the backgrounds, positioning within the frame and composition are too far apart for this to work. With the Becher’s photos, the neutrality made their subjects stand out, but with my triptych there is no neutrality to give the object/subject definition.

It may work better if all of the alters were composed in an identical manner, and hight within the frame, but the third photo would need to have a similar coloured background. If I could arrange this then maybe the backgrounds with their own busyness would not matter as much. To be honest I think that I would prefer that to the bland neutrality of Becher. Although I do understand the point of the exercise. Similar objects which are  framed and composed in a similar manner, enhances the definition of the subjects.

I would like to re-shoot this exercise, but right now I am not going to. I would like to complete this part of the course work, and I am six weeks beyond the agreed deadline. I have one more exercise to shoot, and then to evaluate and select my stage photo for assignment three.

Update

The comment below by Jenna has been incredibly helpful for me. Not seeing where the second photo, my significant object, fitted in with the other two – has given me the opportunity to consider why.

My significant object is my altar. I don’t see it as being a fireplace, because it’s not, it’s my altar, the spiritual centre of my home. This includes the crystals at the base, next to gohonzon, and the pictures either side and above. They all have spiritual significance to me. A Nichiren Buddhist would recognize the gohonzon and know this is my altar, but nobody else would.

Because I only see this as my altar then I didn’t even consider that others would not recognise it as being so, and there is some very useful learning here. If I am going to display something of importance to me, then I need to consider whether a non involved/non knowing person would see what I do. What will they see? If I think they couldn’t have the same ‘knowing’ of my significant object that I do, then how can I present it in a context that makes this more accessible.

I’m no longer feeling dejected. Nothing had changed with the series, it still doesn’t work, but learning is remarkably empowering.

Picture Credit

The third photo in the triptych is by Raina from the moon, of which she retains the copyright. Thankyou Raina.

Exercise 3.7 – Planning – Judaism – Christianity – Object Of Devotion

Having given some thought to the exercise I have decided that I am going to make use of two approaches.

My altar is highly personal, but at the same time it is calm, peaceful and a refuge, and as such I would like it to be photographed early on a sunny morning so that natural daylight provides an element of grace. Other people will also have significant objects of devotion and I am going to send out a group email, blog post, and a couple of personal emails to ask others if they would collaborate with me and send me a photo of their object within its environment, and taken with the same lighting and composition, as the brief asks.. This is my prefered option because it retains the individual and personal connection that I feel is important.

The second option is to use a photo that I have already taken of a church altar, and then to find a local synagogue and ask if I can make some photos there. Having never been to a synagogue and having no connection with Judaism then I know very little of their faith or objects of devotion.

The importance of Jewish faith and culture to me is that I believe that Jews, for at least the past 2,000 are the second most persecuted group of people in the world (women being the people who have been the most persecuted), and because I find that when I read about the holocaust I am left feeling utterly bereft.