Stephanie Mortimore

University: Hereford College of Arts

Graduation: 2016

Genre: Fine Art

Websitewww.stephaniemortimore.co.uk

Artist Statement: My photographic fascination is driven by a consideration of the medium's relationship with time, memory and transience. The photograph is a form of posthumous communication, projecting transitory appearances into the future; the print depicting corporeal bodies embalmed in the photographic emulsion like insects in amber.

Through my creation of Gemini, I engaged with photographs of unknown sitters, lost through time, connection and memory. I interpreted these anonymous sitters as constellatory bodies, granting them a bearing in time and space; astrological constellations pierce the photographic surface, transforming the formal into the fantastical. They are lost and reborn.

 
From the series Gemini

From the series Gemini

 

Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I attended Hereford College of Arts and graduated with First Class Honours in 2016.

What are some standout moments from your time at university? I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Hereford College of Arts, but writing my dissertation, entitled Embalming the Dead: The Family Album, was definitely one of the highlights of my degree. The process of writing and researching enabled me to critically engage with photography and photographic theory in a more meaningful manner, and thus altered the manner in which I visually engage with and critically perceive photographic material. My dissertation illustrates an exploration of the photographic medium as a means of visually preserving bodily appearances, whilst also considering the inherent psychological factors which necessitate the creation of familial imagery.

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? Within the context of 'traditional' photographic genres, I would place my work within the genre of 'fine art'. However, I wouldn't consider my work to fall into any genre, since making this distinction limits the reading of my work. My practice demonstrates my individual, instinctive engagement with the specificity and ontology of the photographic medium.

 
From the series Gemini

From the series Gemini

 

What themes do you find yourself exploring? Through my practice I engage instinctively with existing photographic ephemera, primarily exploring themes of time, memory and transience, but also ideas of domesticity and social convention in my engagement with vernacular and familial imagery.

Who are some standout photographers that have influenced your creation of Gemini? I consider Gemini to be an organic manifestation of the manner in which I personally engage with photography, however, I was inspired by Canadian photographer Amy Friend's body of work Dare Alla Luce, and the work of artist Tom Butler and the manner in which they engage with photography so as to transform the formal and the mundane into something fantastical and astonishing.

Can you talk us through the process of making these images? In producing Gemini' I worked with a series of graduation portraits purchased online in the form of a high school year book from Norway, Maine. From my interpretation of the anonymous sitters as 'constellatory bodies', I physically pierced the photographic surface, allowing light to emanate through. Thus, the formal was transformed into the fantastical.

 
From the series Gemini

From the series Gemini

 

What was your reason for layering constellations over your portraits? Gemini was inspired by the Roland Barthes quote: "The photograph is literally an emanation of the referent. From a real body, which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me, who am here; the duration of the transmission is insignificant; the photograph of the missing being, as Sontag says, will touch me like the delayed rays of a star." From my reading and interpretation of this quote, I began considering the anonymous sitters as 'constellatory bodies' who exist, as stars do, as delayed projections of light into the future. My use of zodiac constellations grant them a bearing in time and space, whilst also bringing the anonymous into the realm of the familiar.

What did you enjoy most about writing your dissertation? Would you say this was a vital part of your degree course? Writing my dissertation defined my practice and the way in which I critically engage with photography. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing process and the ways in which my engagement with critical theory, and Roland Barthes in particular, influenced my photographic practice. 

Can you give any advice to graduates in terms of continuing your theoretical knowledge post university? Have you continued writing yourself? The best advice I can give is to keep reading and engaging with critical texts and photographic theory. Photography and Death by Audrey Linkman is one of the key texts I engaged with whilst writing my dissertation and it has continued to inspire my theoretical thinking post university. I'm currently looking for opportunities to publish my dissertation and I'm also working to produce a more concise version in the format of a paper. 

 
From the series Gemini

From the series Gemini

 

What encouraged you to buy these portraits to then work with them? Are the people in the images not important to your overall meaning behind this work? Not particularly. When I purchase a photograph, or collection of photographs, it's a very instinctive process. It could be for reasons as subjective as finding the sitter(s) attractive, or for reasons which transcend my own understanding. On a personal level, I felt an instant connection with the sitters in my Gemini collection in that they were graduating students and I was soon to graduate myself. These portraits were to be used for work presented at my Degree Show and this was a synchronicity that I could not ignore. 

You mentioned that you “pierced the photographic surface, allowing light to emanate through”; how have you exhibited these images and also produced them for online viewing? For exhibition at my Degree Show, the portraits were presented within small, bronze frames. They had an incredible domesticity about them, whilst comfortably suiting the gallery environment. The images were produced smaller than the frame and presented suspended in the glass, as if suspended in time and space. Digital versions of the images have been made for online viewing.

 
From the series Gemini

From the series Gemini

 

What are your future photographic plans? In terms of my future photographic plans, I intend to enrol on a Masters Degree course in either Photography or Fine Art within the next couple of years. I'm currently continuing my critical and theoretical practice by working to produce a paper based upon my dissertation, as previously mentioned, and I'm also in the process of sourcing photographs and compiling research towards a new photographic project.