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Professional Contexts Blog

Hannah Starkey

I was looking forward to this guest speaker in particular as I find her to be such an inspiration in her concerns about the male gaze. Hannah Starkey stages photographs, using ordinary women in every-day environments, depicting women as they are seen by other women. I have always had an interest in the cinematic within photography and Starkey is such a good example of this.

In the 90s, there was a shift in photography that meant you didn’t need to stay in your own category, there was acceptance in overlapping styles. There was arguments at the time about whether or not photography should be seen as an art form, which is quite interesting as Starkey’s images have painting-like qualities, with paintings being very much accepted as being art. She expressed that whilst they do share some qualities, her images do stand proudly as photographs. She was working in a very much male dominated environment and hates being referred to as a “female photographer” because it had negative connotations attached to it.

She was fascinated by how women would so often perform for the male gaze and are acting for it. This isn’t to say that she would class her work as being feminist, she is simply photographing the world as she sees it, with the intentions of overlapping documentary with fashion photography and representing the diversity of women. Through having two teenaged daughters, she has seen how visual culture has changed. When asking someone to be in her photographs, she understands the need for sensitivity in her approach. She is drawn to working with older women as the media and other photographers usually are not, making them feel as though they are not valued enough. These images are about beauty, but a different kind of beauty, confirming that it is more than okay to show signs of age.

She said that even though she has been a photographer for 25 years, she has never stopped learning. This was really important for me to hear as all throughout university I have has this mindset that once I’m at the end of third year I will have learnt all pretty much all there is to know about photography, when that obviously is not true.

She takes inspiration from light- it is what photography is about and she is experimental with the quality of light and has said that on occasion, when she see’s something being beautifully lit, she will frame it with her eyes if she does not have a camera with her. To enable her to perfect the light in her images, she will do a lot of recess, returning to the location on different times of the day to discover the best time to photograph.

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