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Professional Contexts Blog

Phoebe Kiely

Phoebe Kiely graduated from Manchester school of art in 2015, so fairly recently, but has already achieved so much in such a short amount of time. From meeting her (virtually) it is clear to see that her persistence and passion is what has landed her these opportunities.

Straight after graduating, she had an open eye residency and her first book was published in 2018 by Mack books.

She invited someone from Open Eye to her degree show, who then invited her to meet the director of Open Eye who asked if she would like her work to be exhibited. Within this exhibition,, she had her own makeshift dark room for her to print in and make work as for her, the making didn’t stop after her university hand-in, she would always be swapping out and moving around photographs around within the exhibition space as she made more work.

Feeling as though her work should always be evolving meant that she was nervous about presenting the work in a publication format, but decided to still take her portfolio to publishing houses. After being declined by one who wouldn’t even look through the whole thing, she was invited to show her portfolio to Michael Mack who agreed to publishing it before seeing all of the images.

Some of Kiely’s photographs were taken spontaneously when she had her camera with her, whilst others were planned. The book is made up of scans of prints rather than scans of the negatives, she choses to make fibre based prints for every one of her images for consistency. She has a mixture of intimate portraiture, landscapes and found objects and would travel across the UK to make the work.

Great things continued to come her way after her book publication. She was featured in the British Journal of Photography’s Ones to Watch and was featured in a show curated by Vanessa Winship who came across Kiely’s prints whilst in the offices of Mack books. Unfortunately Covid meant that the show could not go ahead, but woking alongside Vanessa Winship is an incredible opportunity.

She was able to continue making work and remaining motivated throughout lockdown and this constant motivation to keep going and working on her edits was really inspirational to see, especially at the moment when I think a lot of people are struggling with their mental health.

Kiely spoke about how moving forwards she wants to be more private with her work and does not like Instagram as there is pressure as a photographer to keep looking like you are always working on something. I can understand why she feels this way, but with not being to go into the university building, I have found it useful to give and receive support through Instagram to still feel that sense of community.

I find it interesting how she always brings her camera with her wherever she goes- taking up every opportunity to make a good photograph. I really like this way of working as it feels almost like a non-chronological visual diary of people, places and things she has seen. To be willing to photograph all of the time really shows how committed she is to the art, constantly surrounding herself in photography. I also think that she is a great person to have speak to us as it's clear that she worked so hard whilst at university and never stopped making work afterwards. it' clear that she loves being a photographer and is passionate about what she does and her passion had lead her to some really incredible achievements within only a few years as a graduate.

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