Olivia Reeves

University: University of the West of England, Bristol

Graduation: 2017

Genre: Documentary, Portraiture


Artist Statement: I photograph individuals within different environments and asks how these environments clash with our identity. My most recent project focuses on the bland typeform of hotel interiors and how these designed spaces make us feel. Do these generic interpretations of 'good taste' make us feel uneasy and out of place, or do they have a curiously liberating effect on our sense of self?


What are some standout moments from your time at university? My third year practice would have to be the holder of most stand out moments, as it really is when I started to understand where I wanted to go with my practice and how to promote myself and my work. Preparing for our degree show was probably the biggest stand out moment for me, as it really brought everyone together to work collaboratively, and that's when I got to take a closer look at what work others were making which was really interesting. This also then made me take a step back and view my work from a different perspective, which I really enjoyed. Other stand out moments include guest speakers, as being able to receive feedback from photographers within the industry and really talk to them on a personal level was great, to really hear their journey and the struggles they experienced along the way, and to understand that what I was feeling was completely normal.

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? This is something I don't think about enough, but I believe that my work has a very documentary feel to it, but is very centred around portraiture and found objects, so I would have to combine the two and say documentary and portraiture.

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What themes do you find yourself exploring? The themes that I  find myself never truly breaking away from is the connection we have with place, and how this place effects our personal or social feelings. 

How did this series come to the surface? What initially inspired you? This series really came to the surface when I was working away a lot with a design company, and I would have to stay in hotels on my own. I felt so uneasy and anxious when surrounded by the bland type form of hotel interiors. I just hated the lack of identity that I felt there, and would find any way to try and make the space my own for the time that I was there. Whatever mess or adjustments I made, would be rearranged by the time I got back, and it felt like a constant battle. This then really made me question how these designed spaces make us feel. I was really inspired by other photographers when trying to decide how I would portray this isolating and anxious feeling. I began to experiment a lot more with combining natural and artificial light, to create a haunting and unwelcoming feel to my images.


What other locations have you made similar work in? In my second year of university I created a project centred around individuals’ connections with nature, what they do to help the world around us. To which I met the Bristol beekeeping Association and a member of Slade Bournemouth community garden and others individuals.  To which I then  created a series of Portraits. Other than this,  this is quite a new topic  for me in the sense of narrowing down a specific feeling in a specific environment.

What have you discovered from making this work? How do we feel in these generic spaces? When making this work, I discovered that I really wasn't alone in this feeling of isolation and was able to meet more and more people who felt the same, which really made me strive further to pursue this project, and really demonstrate and recreate the lack of identity we have in hotels. I have been greatly influenced by french anthropologist Marc Augé and his study of 'place' and 'non-place'. As I agree with his feelings of hotels being categorized into being a 'non-place' as this is somewhere you go and make a transaction and a place that has no real social life, and seen as a passing through place, somewhere that you do not relate to and cannot truly connect with.


As you felt uneasy with the hotel rooms you were staying in, why have  you tried to replicate this feeling for your viewer? What would you like  them to learn from your work? I have tried to replicate this feeling as it may be something that others can relate to and also because I believe that I feel this way because of the places themselves, not my own anxieties. I just found the lack of identity I feel within a hotel setting really interesting  when it is seen as a space of luxury and enjoyment, and I just really wanted the viewer of my work to take a step back and look at these spaces in a different way.

Name some photographers who inspired this work? Some of the photographers who have inspired me visually with this particular series of images would include Stephen Shore, Taryn Simon, Christina Coral and many others.

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Who are the people in your images? Are they important to the series as a whole? The people within my images are just individuals that I sourced myself, they are important in a sense that I don't want the viewers of my images, to have any indication who they are and why they are in this hotel in particular, I want them to be anonymous to coincide with the feeling of isolation when within a hotel environment. 

Is this series finished? Have you exhibited it anywhere? The series isn't finished yet, and I am currently still shooting, as I feel that more locations and individuals could be used to really put across these feelings within these spaces. I have exhibited a selection of  images from this series during our degree show at candid arts London, but I do hope to exhibit elsewhere in the future.