Hannah Starkey’s “In Real Life” Exhibition at Maureen Paley, London

Maureen Paley is honored to announce the return of Hannah Starkey with her eighth solo show at the gallery, a continuation of the profound narrative first explored in her survey exhibition “In Real Life” at the Hepworth Wakefield in 2022. Starkey’s work, celebrated for its introspective look at the female experience, currently graces two Hayward Gallery Touring exhibitions, “Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood” and “After the End of History: British Working Class Photography 1989 – 2024,” alongside “Acts of Resistance: Photography, Feminisms and the Art of Protest” at the South London Gallery, a collaboration with the V&A, London.

Through her large-scale photographs, Starkey investigates the portrayal of women in contemporary culture, capturing moments of everyday life that expand the narrative around female experience. Her images, often showcasing women in moments of private reflection or social interaction, bring a monumental significance to what might otherwise remain unnoticed, embodying the essence of the female gaze.

Starkey eloquently expresses the weight of observation that young women carry, stating, “You are very aware as a young woman that you are the observed, and you are expected to perform for the eye. We’re conditioned to the point where we observe ourselves being observed, and we operate out of that language, or those dynamics. My work is a way of speaking to women about how you don’t always need to perform for the gaze, that there is more to being female than being seen.”

Her approach to photography is collaborative and considerate; Starkey works closely with her subjects to discuss composition and poses, ensuring their comfort and consent with the images. This process is vital to challenging “the camera’s consuming eye,” and fostering a sense of agency and esteem among those she photographs. A striking example of her work, Untitled, January 2023, features young women photographing each other, a scene from her collaboration with students from Wakefield’s CAPA College. This initiative aimed to counteract the harmful effects of digital manipulation on self-perception by creating a space filled with empathy and joy.

Starkey’s technique of using glass and reflections to mediate the viewer’s access to her subjects adds a layer of complexity to her images, inviting a deliberate and contemplative engagement. Through this method, she aims to fragment and obscure the female form, challenging the viewer’s gaze and disrupting conventional consumption of women’s images.

Born in 1971 in Belfast and now residing in London, Hannah Starkey has carved a distinguished path in the world of photography. Her accolades include winning the Freelands Award with The Hepworth Wakefield in 2019, which led to a major survey exhibition. Starkey’s solo and group exhibitions span globally, showcasing her commitment to exploring themes of femininity, identity, and societal norms through her lens.

In 2018, MACK published “Hannah Starkey: Photographs 1997-2017,” a comprehensive look at her two decades of work, followed by a monograph published alongside her “In Real Life” exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield in 2022. These publications offer an in-depth exploration of Starkey’s significant contribution to contemporary photography and the ongoing dialogue about the female gaze.

The “In Real Life” exhibition at Maureen Paley, running from 24 May to 14 July 2024, invites viewers to immerse themselves in Hannah Starkey’s visionary world, one where the intricacies of female existence are both celebrated and examined with a tender, yet critical eye.

Lisbeth Thalberg
Lisbeth Thalberghttp://lisbeththalberg.wordpress.com
Journalist and artist (photographer). Editor of the art section at MCM.
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