Between 30th September and 6th October, we will be hosting a joint photographic exhibition by Hannah O'Hara and Zachary Innes-Mulraine. We have a chat with Hannah to find out a little bit more about Expectations and Lessons in Forgiveness in this interview.
1. What is the meaning behind the title of your exhibition Expectations and Lessons in Forgiveness and why did you choose this title?
I came up with this title while at university about 10 years ago. Back then, I was very 'wordy' and placed a huge emphasis on titles of projects and images. I wanted the audience to be very influenced by my own perception of the work and so didn't leave a great deal to interpretation. With this title, I felt that it was very evocative and quite beautiful, however, I didn't really understand what the title truly meant or how I could conceptualise the idea. It was therefore always a work in progress title to me until I could fully visualise and understand my intention. Throughout my 20's life changed dramatically and the parts of life that I felt were set in stone began to change and evolve into something different, sometimes good, sometimes bad and sometimes these changes were too difficult for me to cope with. More than anything, my relationships changed dramatically and this title became something I thought about in relation to my own experiences. I felt disappointed in the people I loved and found it hard to understand why people make the choices they do. This made me question my expectations in others and myself and the process of human psychology. I began to dissect the title, disappointment begins with an expectation of someone or something, to expect something and be let down or hurt by another begins a process of forgiveness and acceptance, and so the project began to form in a very organic way 10 years after the original thought.
2. How would you describe this exhibition?
Quiet, contemplative and slightly eerie. These images as a collective represent an absence of someone or something. Each signal image is a personal representation of my relationships with others and there is a dance and communication taking place between the elements in each. It is also very much about renewal and rebirth and the reflective process we embark on once a change has taken place. This is why all of my frames are unique and assigned to a specific image. It's funny really as my work has always been very loud and brash, colourful and full of contrast with lots of drama. This is the first time I've exhibited work that doesn't really involve people but tries to explain relationships through objects and light.
3. What is your favourite piece in this exhibition and why?
My favourite piece is 'The tree, the post and the water tank' as it imbues both harmony and conflict at the same time. In many ways, it's very calm and the three elements sit comfortably amidst a wide landscape. However, they are conflicting in their nature and the three objects comment on the complexity of relationships and the notion of a triad. Within my life, triads have been very prominent and without realising it I have ended up with 2 significant people in my life so this is a very symbolic image to me.
4. What do you hope people will take away from this exhibition?
I always find this a very challenging question. When I'm working on documentary projects or photo essays I am very much thinking about communicating the idea to an audience. With this type of project however, my focus at the time is on my personal journey and to a degree it is a therapeutic process. I see this much more as a fine art piece of work and therefore I don't have any expectations of people's perception but of course hope that they can relate to the work and apply their own experiences to the images.
5. What are the processes you have been through in the last 5 years which has led you to having the Expectations and Lessons in Forgiveness exhibition?
My work has evolved considerably over the last 5 years which I imagine is very natural when you move from your 20s to your 30s. Your ideas and motivations evolve and your general outlook on life changes which is reflected in the art that you make. The last 5 years have been about change, experimentation, acceptance and metamorphosis. As I mentioned above, I have dissected this title in relation to my own concepts of life and relationships and essentially have tried to understand life and its many twists and turns. In regards to practical processes, I have been very interested in doing everything and seeing a project as not just about the imagery but the entire life of the exhibition. I upcycle all of my frames and source them mainly from car boot sales or finding them in the street. I have become a lot less concerned with my own story and more concerned with the stories of others and of human interaction in general.
6. What does photography mean to you? Why do you choose photography as a medium to express yourself?
I don't think you really choose your art form, I think it's an organic process that exists naturally. Some people paint, some dance, act, sing etc and I don't really think that there is much control over this. For example, you may hear a song and fall in love with it and listen to it all the time. It may drive your friend's crazy and they might think it's a naff song but for some reason everytime you hear it, it touches you in some way that makes you feel something you can't explain. From the moment I picked up Francesca Woodman's photographic compilation in the in the college library at the age of 16 I had that feeling. I was already studying photography A level at the time and had started taking pictures from the age of 14 as a way to distance myself from my experience. I've always been very observational and voyeuristic in my nature and as an only child, spent a lot of time watching the world and people around me.
7. What is next for you?
This is my first exhibition in 5 years and is very symbolic as the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one. I am about to embark on my masters degree next year and am beginning to see photography in a different way. I will always be a fine art photographer at heart but want to begin to look at documentary photography and begin to tell other people's stories and comment on wider issues.
8. What is it about a particular scene or setting that will compel you to capture it?
Predominately I focus on history and the notion of stories attached to places or objects. I have a bizarre fascination with public toilets as I see them as a mix between private and public space which fascinates me. More often than not, you'll find me in a low-lit carsy taking pictures of some anonymous and suspect stain on the wall :) I like derelict or forgotten spaces and lately industry and factories that are now disused and abandoned. I am drawn to things that tell the story of the lives that took place there.
9. What is your creative process in your composition work?
I think as a photographer you are always trying to capture something in a new or different way. I examine a room or place when I enter it and look for stories within the space. What is there that is interesting, how can I frame something to communicate the atmosphere that I am experiencing within that space or how can I capture a moment and make it true to what is happening.
10. How do you see your photography evolving in the future?
It's quite a strange process that takes place with your art form as you don't necessarily realise changes or evolution in your imagery. It is only by going through my portfolios and flyers previous exhibitions that I realise how much my work and technique have changed. As I mentioned before, I am more focused on documentary at the moment and want to return to my routes by working with medium format film again. I miss my film cameras so much and it's such a different experience developing and printing your own prints.
11. What is the message in this exhibition?
I'm not sure that there's a definite message but more of a feeling and atmosphere that encapsulates the imagery. As the project is focused on reflection and understanding, it's kind of a coming of age story for me. It's more of a comment on experience than a message.
12. What is the role of the photographer in society?
Ooh this is a tricky question, especially with the changes in technology and photography as a whole. At its heart I feel photography is there to document truthfully human experience in the time that it relates to. It should examine current situations and change within the larger context of society in order to bring awareness to a larger audience or educate future audiences. Whether this is editorial, documentary or fine art photography, whether intentional or not, it will always represent a facet of how we live, what we do and what our perceptions of the world around us are.
13. What are your tips for aspiring photographers?
Don't try and be somebody else or compare yourself to others. This is true of all parts of life and it's almost impossible to do but you will always feel a sense of disappointment or inadequacy by placing an emphasis on others. When I was younger, I would instantly look at artists bios to see how old they were when they published their first book etc and would be left with a sinking feeling of not achieving the same things at the same age. Listen to your own voice and appreciate the things that make you different as an artist and remember that success comes in many forms and in many ways. It is your personal journey so enjoy it.