Dean O'Brien's Blog

Hannah Starkey talk at Mead gallery

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On Tuesday 1st March I had the pleasure of listening to a talk by Hannah Starkey at Mead Gallery.  Hannah Starkey is one of those people whose work has always fascinated me.  I  purchased her first book ‘Hannah Starkey Photographs 1997-2007’ a while ago and this was a great starting point to start exploring her images further.

First impressions of Hannah’s work when I first saw it was that none of it made sense.  I could not understand the narrative, if there was meant to be one.  Then things started to become clear.  Almost all of her images contain women and are based around their lives.  Hannah stated during the talk that she was cynical about the way in which women are used in advertising and highly sexualised.  Some of her images are a reflection of that sadness.  She wants her images to reflect women in an alternative way.  The images deal with feminist issues which she is interested in.

Hannah continued throughout the talk to tell us about her upbringing in Northern Ireland.  She was politicised very early by growing up in Belfast.  Surrounded by the troubles she stated ‘Situations are normalised by the everyday’.  She explained that ‘The mothers kept the normality in Ulster’.   This part of her upbringing had a lasting affect on her as it was these women who she looked up to.  The roles that those women played in the conflict.  She continued on to talk about the male vanity of war.

One question that got brought up through the talk was why many of her images are ‘untitled’ with just a date.  She explained that it was not meant to annoy people (myself included) as she was aware that many had been annoyed by the lack of titling to the images.  It was pointed out that her audience ‘had a desire to know’.

Hannah also explained where her obsession with observing people came from.  She grew up as a child working on a market stall selling clothes and observing what people would buy or steal etc..So she has been taught to observe people from a very early age.  ‘Observing people comes natural to me.  Its an ability to read people very quickly on an observational level’.  She also explained that as a street photographer ‘Its important to get out there.  Walk and look.  As a street photographer its the best exercise that you can do.  Its great to engage with people.  To communicate an idea with people who you would never normally cross paths with’.

All in all a superb thought provoking talk and Hannah stayed around after to chat to individuals who wanted to ask other questions regarding her work.

I had visited Hannah’s exhibition at Mead gallery earlier in the month and you can read about it HERE


Written by Dean O'Brien

March 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm

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