Quiet yet intense Hannah Starkey’s photographs reflect on the individual in its urban surroundings and related aspects of psychological and social conditions. Her representations of – predominantly – women are portraitures tracing the personal bonds between the subjects and their worlds. Starkey collaborates closely with actresses as well as aquaintances she meets on site and then creates carefully composed scenes. Impressive architectural elements often forming an integral part of her images and strong color heighten the sensation of her staged scenes on a formal and associative level, triggering personal interpretations and thoughts on the experience of the visual world at large.
The artist utilizes an almost cinematic language which perfectly merges with her interest in street photography and ability to portray society within an art-historical and documentary context. This is best seen in subtle hints towards the nineteenth century concept of the flâneur – or in this case flâneuse and it takes the viewer back to authors writing in the mid 1800s such as Frances Trollope or George Sand to portray women actively seeking economic independence, political ambition and gender fluidity by using the genre of the panorama.
The strong emotions Starkey produces do clearly come with the cinematic mode of her photographs – emotions of desire, empathy, doubt or anxiety. Still she’s always chosing to work out the narrative elements in the first place transforming her portraits into rich and authentic stories. Along these lines she’s preoccupied with compositions that are often pivoting on a pensive, pre-occupied main character within environments that are playing with various visual levels like reflections and other puzzling elements.
Perspectives and interiors also play an important role: they are key elements in setting the tone for the mood of the entire scenario – often, the young women in Starkey’s photographs seem bored and deceived and appear to be waiting for time to pass, they seem to experience a feeling of inner void in their city environments and lonesome social habitat. Similar observations can be made when looking at her beautifully melancholic takes on outdoor sceneries that are emanating some kind of symbolism and a sense of artificiality and drama – even in natural settings.
Cover image: Hannah Starkey, Untitled – January 2013, 2013, C-print, 49 x 65 1/8 inches, 124.5 x 165.4 cm (framed).
All images: © Hannah Starkey, courtesy Maureen Paley, London
MAUREEN PALEY GALLERY
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