I have recently completed a degree in Fine Art at the Ulster University, Belfast. I create artworks through a range of media such as painting, drawing, digital, mixed media and, most recently, photography. I aim for my work to be layered, both visually and conceptually, so that it is capable of communicating numerous narratives to the viewer depending on their life experience, and for the subject matter to be viewed in a wider context beyond the frame of the image.
My influences range from the theatrical depictions of the physical and emotional human state in Caravaggio’s paintings and the surreal dreamlike settings conjured up by Salvador Dali, to contemporary photographers such as Gregory Crewdson, known for his elaborately stage scenes of American neighbourhoods, and David LaChapelle, famous for his hyper-realistic photographs with strong social messages. Though, my greatest inspiration is everything I see, feel and experience throughout my life.
One of my first photography projects involved using modern digital techniques to show how the people, the environment and the activity of the city changes from day to night. I played with the general perception of a photograph being a static image – representing one moment frozen in time – by creating complex scenes of ambiguous, colourful narratives within one image. The photographs have a pervasive sense of time and movement, a quality achieved through the manipulation of light and layering of multiple images. Several images taken at different stages of the day were combined to show the beauty and mystery of everyday life that goes unnoticed during the daily grind.
I am very interested in documenting urban environments at night – the time I find most interesting, both socially and visually – when people return to their private lives behind closed doors. At night, the streets are quieter, the lights are stronger, the alleys are darker and the atmosphere is moodier – there is a mysterious air of uncertainty that I find very intriguing. I like to convey isolation and loneliness in the city despite the fact that so many people live in the city. The idea of feeling stranded and alone in a densely populated area is a contradiction that really interests me. These qualities provided a canvas from which I could portray psychological issues and feelings of misery, melancholy and mystery through cinematic stills of unsettled, isolated figures.
As my work developed, I removed the physical presence of anyone in my photographs, and instead symbolised human activity through the use of light, space and the power of suggestion. Each scene has a stark contrast between light and dark, where the light’s purpose is to illuminate areas of interest and to imply movement and activity, within a shroud of darkness. The images present light in a variety of colours, each of which offer different connotations, for example, I illustrate the comparison between the warm domestic light and the cold foreign light. The cold white light adds a sense of mystery and the feeling of the uncanny, often insinuating a supernatural or paranormal force as opposed to something welcoming. This is a perception or convention influenced by TV and film.
Through the structural composition, colourful array of lights and cinematic quality of each scene, I try to find the beauty in the conventionally ugly and neglected parts of the city that are hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, while maintaining the somewhat unsettling, melancholic mood that these scenes evoke. I aim to photograph locations that are nondescript – absent of signage and recognisable buildings – to generalise the architecture in the scene, which allows the viewer to relate the imagery to any place they have experienced with similar architecture. In other words, the settings are relatable, not recognisable. I like to photograph the dark underbelly of the city, from which I can then stage, enhance and manipulate certain aspects of those photographs to portray psychological issues and emotional states that are insinuated within the dejected environment and unsettling nature of each scene.