John Rae

University: University of West London

Graduation: 2012

Genre: Portraiture


Artist Statement: My creative interest lies with the natural differences in people, their faces, bodies and what we might label as “identity”. My main goal as an artist is to produce elegant, sensitive, stimulating imagery that may need to offend mainstream sensitivities. For this reason some of the more transgressive works have been rejected from public display.

From the series  Self Scoring

From the series Self Scoring

From the series  A Hidden Gender

From the series A Hidden Gender

What are some standout moments from your time at university? The opportunity to exhibit large scale prints in a gallery environment was the real climax but during the course meeting and discussing photographic approaches with working photographic artists and fellow students provided incomparable stimulation and helped me to develop my practice.

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into, and what themes do you find yourself exploring? In the “hierarchy of genre” I see my work fitting in somewhere between portraiture and constructed allegorical composites. I am drawn to “identity” as a concept and have been exploring various aspects over the last five years. It's still a big draw and I see myself continuing in this vein for years to come.

What encouraged you to start teaching photography? My career background has always involved teaching and training of some sort and a natural progression after the MA was to move into a teaching role within photography. I currently teach adults part-time and subsidise this with freelance fashion, product and food photography. I have built up a good working relationship with local firms, a few global brands and even a TV Chef!

Who or what visually and theoretically inspires your work? I draw inspiration from a variety of practitioners and publications, from the mainstays of academic analysis (Arbus, Sander, Sherman) to current celebrity image makers (Bailey, Rankin) and the illustrative work like that of Dave Hill or Jill Greenberg.

Images from the series  Liminal Ink

Images from the series Liminal Ink

liminal_ink_Dee (1).jpg

Can you tell us a little about Self Scoring, 2012? What were your main influences for this body of work? Self Scoring was a difficult project as it centred around issues of self injury. It started off innocently enough, with work around scarification as “identifying marks”, but developed into darker territory as people turning up for castings often presented with historical or even recent evidence of self injury. I engaged the help of mental health organisations to oversee exhibitions of this work and offer support to anyone affected.

Images from the series  Believe In

Images from the series Believe In

What is Believe In, 2016 about to you? Is this a new body of work? Believe In is a new body of work for LGBTQ history month 2016 the overarching theme of which is “belief”. It is on show throughout February (2016) at the Town Hall in Maidenhead, Berkshire and selected images are to be featured in The Dancing Bear Trilogy/The Alphabet Club's Queer anthology book, curated by Jamie Fletcher.

How did you communicate with your sitters for this project? Did you ask them to pose or act in a certain way? For this project I found willing participants across the country, Bournemouth, Nottingham, Reading, Winchester, Sheffield and travelled to them with lighting and equipment. They were given the statement stems printed on paper and asked to add a word (or two) to complete the statement. They completed these themselves without influence or direction other than to stand in the frame holding the completed sign. Extra meaning is gained from comparing the resulting image sets.

What are your plans for the future? Future plans involve more exhibitions, more projects around identity and in particular more around gender and sexuality. My powerful driver is to find a venue that will be brave enough to show the more transgressive works and not shy away from issues ranging from simple nudity through to more playful or difficult signifiers relating to components of “identity”.