JTF (just the facts): A total of 8 large scale color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung in the two gallery rooms on the second floor. All of the prints are c-prints, made in 2012 and 2013. Each work is sized 48×65 and is available in an edition of 5+2AP. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Hannah Starkey’s photographs have always turned on the elusiveness of narrative, placing young women in a variety of modern settings and capturing the traces of subtle moods and introspective emotions running beneath their everyday lives. In her newest pictures, her women return to their urban locales, but with children added to the mix, they now take on the implied role of mother/protector. Starkey’s use of slowed down, cinematic observation is the same, but the tiny gestures between mother and child bring a layer of tenderness and connection to the uncertain situations.
In Starkey’s previous works, she often used elements of setting and props (windows, mirrors, sunglasses etc.) to signal different potential frames of mind, running the gamut from gloomy boredom to self-assured confidence. In these pictures, the paired interaction with the child provides the emotional catalyst. Women cradle young children, hold them in their arms, stand protectively nearby, drape an arm over a nearby shoulder, or merely keep an eye on a wandering kid while trudging along in the snow with too many shopping bags. This particular batch of images is also particularly strong in terms of formal composition – criss-cross girders and a crane with ladders tower over a mother and child, while a bright blue and orange wall provides a backdrop for both a clash of scarf and beads and a gentle touch. Muted visual trickery is often at work as well, with a mother reaching out to the sky of a painted brick mural and a mother/daughter team seen through the reflected distortions of aquarium glass.
Starkey’s mothers don’t seem to lead messy chaotic lives – they appear remarkably calm and in control given the pressures of the job. It’s clear that these narratives are centered on the nuanced emotional states of the mothers (not the children), and with just a few carefully placed clues and details, we are able to spin up all kinds of potential storylines for these women. Starkey’s subjects are facing the universal challenges of modern urban parenting, but their individual paths and choices are left deftly open-ended.
Collector’s POV: Each of the prints in the show is priced at £12000. Starkey’s work has only recently begun to appear in the secondary markets, primarily in the London sales; prices have ranged from roughly $2000 to $7000.