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Hannah Starkey

Born 1971 (Belfast)

Born in Belfast, Hannah Starkey studied photography at Napier University, Edinburgh, and the Royal College of Art, London. Working with professional actors, Starkey constructs complex, yet seemingly fleeting images, set within a contemporary urban environment, that suggest narratives based on chance encounters and personal impressions. Starkey has exhibited extensively since the 1990s, including solos exhibitions at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry; Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York. In 2000, ‘Hannah Starkey: Photographs’ was exhibited at IMMA.1

Bio & Career

Acting like a film or theatre director, Belfast-born artist Hannah Starkey carefully stages her photographs. Starkey works with professional actors, chosen by the artist to play a certain role in the scenarios that she scripts. Costumes, lighting, location, time of day are all pinned down in advance of creating the final image. Starkey’s images seem like snatched moments and often it appears as though the sitters have been caught unawares, mid-thought or mid-action. Knowing about the careful planning behind the work shatters this illusion. In an age when images are so readily available to us, Starkey questions this possibility of catching a moment, freezing it – and in doing so she also questions the role of photography in creating and recording memories.

Starkey’s stage is the urban landscape that she inhabits – the places of interest to her are commonplace, and often banal. In this work the setting is a local school. The location is somehow at once familiar and unfamiliar; recognizable, yet not quite the norm. Head down-turned a woman dressed in a leopard print dress appears isolated from the other characters. Positioned centrally beneath an overhead porch light, she seems iconic, bathed in a golden halo-like glow. We are left to wonder why these women are gathered here. What is on tonight inside the school?2

External links & References