Phoebe Kiely

UniversityManchester School of Art

Graduation: 2015

Genre: Fine Art


Artist Statement:

The series came into fruition in 2015 and is formed of different changeable edits. I am drawn to the scenes I take photographs of. There is some kind of pull which does not allow me to ignore it. I have to commit it to film because if I don't I feel like I will become less of the person I am. I collect photos instinctively and with something resembling an addiction. They present my interaction with the world. It allows me not to forget, to forge a meaning from the life I lead. My fragmented life is presented in the work. For me, the images, they act as a reminder of mortality. The street is where I make the majority of the work. There I find solace. It allows me to experience, to see. And it allows me to create work which allows others to see me.

 From the series  They Were My Landscape

From the series They Were My Landscape


What are some standout moments from your time at university? The summer before I started my final year I was featured in print for the first time. Intern Magazine published nine previously unseen self portraits alongside a written piece, that was my first standout moment. The second came during the walk home from the launch event of that very magazine they literally coincided with each other. When I walked past the art school building, I saw three pieces of work that I recognised straight away as mine. The first highlight of my university life had been dulled the very same day by finding out my work had been taken out of the darkroom and worked into books, and finally somehow been fused into three large panels, all by the same student. The conclusion of that event was that the work was kept by the university and from that moment on, a strict policy on ethical codes and practices was implemented. 

Due to my photographic work being very personal, this event had a huge impact on my practice, initially negative. However, now so much time has passed I am able think differently about the experience and it has ultimately become a positive.

 Images f rom the series  They Were My Landscape

Images from the series They Were My Landscape

Aside from those events, during third year the university ran portfolio presentations. Amongst others artists, Julian Germain and Tom Wood were two of the photographers who came in to run these sessions. They both used the word 'promising' when looking through my prints.

What themes do you find yourself exploring? My work is a self-reflective exploration of my life. Moving away from the digital world my analogue work runs with the theme that nothing is forever. The hand made gelatin silver prints I create are all documents from my life, whether they are constructed in the frame or uncontrolled moments on the street. They are layered with psychological insight with the growing need to immortalise myself within the images, to forge some kind of meaning from existing.

What is your usual choice of camera equipment? At the moment I am constantly using a Hasselblad 500c. I began using medium format cameras in my third year, before that I was constantly using 35mm. 

  From the series  They Were My Landscape

From the series They Were My Landscape


Describe your work in one sentence. My work is created with a documentary approach to my life, taken in a diaristic form condensed into a constructed edit, which enables me to fix my being into the images. 

Your work is very personal, what do you hope for your viewer to gain from your images? It is important that the viewer is able to see a fraction of my life through my eyes. The dream like sense of reality that I present through the edit allows me control in the final stages of what I would like the viewer to know. There are secrets entwined in the images. Not knowing where any of the images are taken, or who is in the images, or sometimes in its abstract form what the image even is, allows for a sense of mystery and wonder.

  From the series  They Were My Landscape

From the series They Were My Landscape

What theoretical influences did you have when making They Were My Landscape? It's more about feeling and subconscious decisions when it comes to making photos for They Were My Landscape. The images I created weren't taken based on learning, instinct is what I relied on. However, creating the edit for the work proved much more trying. I looked into many different books for editorial inspiration, amongst them Robert Frank, The Americans and Corinne Day, Diary. These and many others helped a great deal when finalising edits. 

What attracts you to each location you decide to photograph? Do they have to hold a personal connection to you or do you have a feeling and know when the right time is to take the image? Sometimes I get a gut feeling about a location, a city I am curious about. I often get drawn to places I have an emotional attachment to. Coming back to visit where I grew up is interesting, it's great to have time away and revisit places. There are always new scenes, new possible images to get.

As for the right time vs personal connection, it's a combination of both. Something lines up when it comes to taking photographs. 

  From the series  They Were My Landscape

From the series They Were My Landscape


Are there any photographers who you always look to for inspiration? Robert Frank, Henri Cartier Bresson, Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander.

Do you think this body of work will ever be complete? Possibly, possibly not. It's still too early to say. It does feel more final than it has ever done, but in every present it always does. 

Your work has been exhibited at Brighton Photo Fringe and featured in Intern Magazine; where would you ultimately like your work to end up? I always thought my work was too changeable to work in a gallery space. Rarely feeling satisfied with an edit makes it difficult to commit work to walls. However, the Open Eye Gallery show gave me room to change edits, to make new work. It was perfectly fluid and worked perfectly with my work.

  Installation image of     They Were My Landscape   at Brighton Photo Fringe

Installation image of They Were My Landscape at Brighton Photo Fringe

I don't expect other exhibitions in the future to work in the same way, but now my work has been validated in that environment and I only want more.

Have you ever considered making your work into a book? I did during my last year at university, but I put the book making aside to keep on printing in the darkroom.

  From the series  They Were My Landscape

From the series They Were My Landscape


Now the series has reached such a point as it has I can think more clearly about making a book. Watch this space. 

What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? There are so many. The one I've been recently shown is Trent Parke, Minutes to Midnight