Keeley Bentley

University: Blackpool & The Fylde College

Graduation: 2016

Genre: Narrative, Fine Art

Artist Statement: Keeley is a Fine Art photographer based in the North West of England.

Her portraits define her personality as much as the subject she's photographing. Her love for timeworn paintings and long-standing literature, conjures ideas of eccentricity combined with romanticism. 

In Keeley’s pursuit of the perfect picture no demand appears too unreasonable, her outlandish style and sophistication plays on the romantic notions of classic novels. In which she has created a sustainable practice from those novels, from Alice to Lolita, Blackpool to Bavaria. She defines her work as a lucid dream, which sits on the cusp of reality and fantasy of times gone by. 

Her motivation comes from her father whom always wanted to be an artist; yet that was never how things ended up for him. The elements of her fathers love for painting inspired her from when she was young, walking round galleries as a child has inspired her to create a practice that is inspired by childhood memories. To her the transition to adulthood, which she still feels she is completing aged twenty-six, is something that interferes with life and so challenges this frequently within her work. That liminal zone to which we are both mature and innocent is one that reoccurs through many of Keeley's body of work. 

From the series  Lo-Lee-Tah

From the series Lo-Lee-Tah

Keeley has recently graduated with a First Class Honors degree in Photography, her plans for the future are raising an army of cats with her son by her side and completing an MA at Manchester School of Art. 

What are some standout moments from your time at university? I think just the experience in general really stood out, realising how to use medium format though was major for me. 

Don’t think i’ve shot a project without it now. 

What themes do you find yourself exploring? I always seem to have the same reoccurring themes throughout my work, whether that is a client fashion shoot or my own private work. 

That fine line when a girl becomes a woman, neoteny, playing on ideas of how these 16-19 year old, flat chested, size 0 models are wearing the clothes we aim to fit. 

Women aren’t like that and I feel that within that a play on sexual tensions derive between the viewer and I play on that a lot in my series Lo-Lee-Tah

From the series   Lo-Lee-Tah

From the series Lo-Lee-Tah

Who or what visually influences your work? Books and paintings are very important to what I try and choose to work towards. A book will always plant a seed in my mind. I also travel a lot, which helps me see new types of ways to capture with my lens. 

Coming back from Paris recently, I found myself just thinking how I can recreate the paintings hanging on the walls in the Louvre to mimic modern day issues. 

Coming from a fine art background it helps to understand how a painter would paint, and with that I move forward to mimic it in a photograph.

Sexuality especially in women wasn’t an issue in any of these, so why has instagram banned nipples? 

It’s the way women are represented as the fundamentals of strength, Venus the Goddess of love, Virgin Mary, paintings of these women empower me to try and capture something similar. 

From the series   Lo-Lee-Tah

From the series Lo-Lee-Tah

Can you tell us about the MA you’re currently studying for? Where did you choose to study and why? I’m studying my MA in Photography at Manchester School of Art. I live in Blackpool and have done all my life, Manchester though has always been a home away from home. 

I felt that I needed to widen my network more in Manchester as that is where a North West based creative’s hub is going to be. 

What work are you hoping to create during your MA? My latest developments are moving forward with English novels. I’ve done German, Russian/American with Lolita and a few more. 

New work being created for MA

New work being created for MA

I travelled to make those projects and I found myself wondering whilst reading Pride and Prejudice for the hundredth time why I hadn’t tackled some of the best female characters ever written within 100 miles. So I’m developing to take on Jane Eyre, she’s a young strong female and I think she’ll be a challenge. 

Your very interested and influenced by painting, so what initially encouraged you to use a camera to portray your ideas? I'm useless at painting. In my fine art practice it was always pottery or collage; my dad though is an amazing painter. He should of been an artist and he is so chuffed that I'm able to have a career like he always wanted. He took me to galleries as a toddler and although at the time I didn't realise, I now appreciate every single painting and discussion we had. I think the way of thinking about painting is the same way I put it in front of my lens. 

What vital things have you learnt from making Lo-Lee-Tah? I think the reaction to Lo-Lee-Tah was huge. I'd kind of been pushing through similar ideals throughout the entire of my BA and I never really got to what exactly I was trying to say. When I was researching a series I did on Alice in Wonderland and the photography of Lewis Carroll, in one essay it compared Alice to Lolita, being quite small and I quickly realised that was what I was obsessed. I'd read Lolita years before and loved it, as all Nabokov's books they are fantastic. It formed the discussion for my dissertation and it made me really challenge modern day issues with young females bodies, sexuality and personas. It really did seem to prick into something that people are interested in. 

From the series   Lo-Lee-Tah

From the series Lo-Lee-Tah

What's your choice of camera equipment? Does this reflect your decision to produce black and white images? I do shoot digital and medium format for everything I do. It kind of differs who I submit what work to. I find in a career, either people want digital or film, not both, so I shoot both so I'm able to submit it more. My favourite though is medium format. 

I have a Pentax 6x7 from 1969 and I can't fault it; I absolutely love it. I create black and white film images from that and develop it myself. I love the process, although I do create very bright colour images in a lot of past series of work. 

My digital I went for the Nikon df, purely because of its analogue styling. I find it hard to transition from a medium format to some high tech digital camera as I have no idea what I'm doing with. 

The focus to me is the work, anything that makes my life easier helps for me. 

From the series   Lo-Lee-Tah

From the series Lo-Lee-Tah

Is there a story behind each of these images? Can each be referred back to a particular piece of literature or a painting that's inspired you?

One quote from the book Lolita:

There are two kinds of visual memory: one when you skilfully recreate an image in the laboratory of your mind, [...]; and the other when you instantly evoke, with shut eyes, on the dark innerside of tour eyelids.

I found this important as it evokes an emotion we usually suppress. We enjoy this young female for her sexuality, yet we question if we are allowed to, and then try and convey that we aren't enjoying her. It's a challenge in each image and I love watching people's reaction to her. 

What are your plans for after completing your MA? I've recently got a job in Blackpool lecturing part time. It's amazing that within less than a year I'm teaching where I graduated from. It's all been a bit of a whirlwind really but I am over the moon with how my career has developed. 

I want to continue challenging the conformities of females and sexuality, continuing to make work and talking about it. The reaction to a series of work really helps develop you as a practitioner so that's key for me to move forward.