Research · Murrell and Starkey 2

Murell and Starkey

Starting with Murrell, she has an approach that is based in the fantasy of children (in constructing childhoods series). The work takes on, in most cases, in each photo a single focal point within the context of a space (room) that acts as the context with signifiers leading to the particular rolls that adults normally assume. She is working here with a constructed reality based on the argument that children are increasingly the object of attention of the neo-liberal consumerist marketing industry. The premise for her argument, although perhaps true, I find a little weak via the actual photos  in terms of the repetition of the theme.

Godmillow (2001) states about documentary:

‘Don’t produce the surface of things: have a real subject and real analysis, or at least an intelligent proposition that is larger than the subject of your film.’ (Godmillow, cited in: The creative documentary 2011.)

Whilst I am not sure if the work fulfils a deeper remit of exploration into the subject she does I think highlight and point in the right direction in discussing the theme at hand. One assumes that as children have knowledge of electrical devices they too can now be ‘brain washed’ by publicity just as an adult can be. So I feel that the photos are not off beam. There is I would assume an intelligent proposition going on in the photos. At times the photos point towards potential career moves or house hold tasks (denotive elements) and one might assume that this is not such a bad thing: that children role play.

Maansi writes:

‘According to research, an average child is exposed to over 40,000 commercials through TV every year. One study even alleges that in the U.S., children are spending more time watching TV than they are in school, meaning that they are viewing more advertisements’. (2019.)

With an abundance of other studies that can be found on the web this does suggest that there is a real issues within society here. question that arises is: do the images that are presented take the viewer beyond the superficial engagement of the subject. One assumes as Godmillow suggests that the photographer wants to take the viewer beyond the limits of the subject matter of her photos to a bigger issue? So the bigger issues might be what? I’d imagine the involvement of the parents, the way that school and society interact with children etc? This might of fleshed out the bigger picture of what Murrell was trying to communicate.

I wondered if the research done by Murrell was extensive enough. I thought that perhaps her work might of been enhanced by an additional statistics sheet or some other form of media to reinforce her opinion and angle on the subject.


Untitled – May 1997 1997 Hannah Starkey born 1971 Purchased 1999 [3]

‘Starkey was born and raised in Belfast. She graduated with an MA from the Royal College of Art, London in 1997. Untitled – May 1997 was one of the works she exhibited in her degree show, which she titled ‘Women watching Women’ (Manchester, 2003.)

Starkey’s work takes a different imaginative sort of turn focusing very often on women and the cultural peculiarities of the societal and interpersonal relationships between them.

Bright writes of Starkey: ‘Recent work of British artist has shifted from looking directly at women’s experience to more general observations about contemporary space, and how controlling urban environments we aspire to offer little apart from artifice and facade.’ (Bright, 2019.) 

Starkey makes her images within the genre of constructed photography and places each element distinctly to create meaning and express views. In the above image we see the reflection of two women, one dark haired the other blonde. The dark haired woman has a moth caught in her finger pinned to the mirror and also looks at her gaze in the mirror. We see the other woman looking into the reflection of the first.

The main focal point is the woman face in the mirror followed by the moth and then the second is the face of the other woman staring on at her.

Starkey writes that ‘photography has an endless potential to explore questions about ourselves in relation to the world around us’ (Starkey, cited in Bright 2011.)

This particular take on photography is one that I have personally explored and will again in my own coming assignment whereby I will chose to explore a theme that I hope is bigger that the actual photographic matter.

In Wilma de Jong’s excellent article (2011.) it is argued that knowledge appears to be ‘unstable’ and ‘incomplete and uncertain’ and therefore it is better to talk about different truths. This discussion comes back to debates already well known on the theme of documentary and relative truth: that we cannot present a one time objective truth is now well know and that there are only really the possibilities to give a narrative interpretation in which Campbell discusses is a after event happening not during the event.

If then there is not the possibility to present a one time truth objectively then it would seem the documentary photographer is a position of needing to explore creatively the theme or situation in some way, but leaving the topic open for further questioning and interpretation. No one photograph or series in my view, can express a complete and rounded truth about the complex human condition.


Bright, S. Art Photography Now (2019:94) Thames and Hudson

Bright S. (2011:95) Hannah Starkey: Art photography now, Thames and Hudson

De Jong, W. The creative documentary (2011) (OCA website)

Manaasi, Nine Negative Side Effects Of Advertising On Children (2019) [online] [accessed, April 2020

Manchester, E. Tate [online] [accessed, April 2020]

Startkey, H. Untitled May 1997 [Tate on line] [accessed, April 2020]

Wilma d. J. (2011) Jill Godmillow: Dogma 2001: Kill the Documentary As We Know It 

Published by Truevisionphotography

I'm a student photographer studying through the OCA a UK based arts university. I'm in the foundation year of my studies and enjoying it immensely. I'm also a yoga teacher and co-founder of Bodhiyoga a buddhism based yoga teacher training program that runs in the UK and Spain each year. As a photographer I'm interested in all forms of fine art. I find the arts really important in my life. I love nature and aim to be in the outdoors as much as I can. Generally I think that all the different strands of my life are flowing to towards self development in the greatest sense of the term. The arts, buddhist practice yoga and meditation are all tools to that end. I feel committed to communication the these values in the world both through the visual arts as well as teaching.

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