In Focus with Shonagh Kelly

Photographer Shonagh Kelly takes inspiration from a variety of artistic genres to create her own intriguing images. Here, she takes us through some of her favourite shots…

‘My name is Shonagh Kelly and I am originally from Northern Ireland. I am currently a fourth year student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee. I came to Dundee to study their Foundation Degree in Art and Design (a one year course) and continued to study Fine Art BA (Hons) at the college. I will be graduating in June of this year which is both extremely exciting and scary at the same time!

I work mainly via film photography; the reason for this instead of digital is because of the craft that darkroom development entails. Learning all the techniques from the simple development of black and white film, to the printing upon photographic paper in my university’s darkrooms has been incredibly eye-opening. Jane Geekie, our darkroom technician, has been a total life saver as she is a bundle of knowledge when it comes to analogue photography.

I first came upon our darkroom facilities in my second year at university and I have been a daily attendee ever since. My work at the beginning of my practice was initially inspired by my homeland, Ireland. I think the reasoning behind this was because I was feeling homesick and visiting home and capturing the beautiful landscapes definitely helped me feel at ease. However, I now focus more so on taking portraits, along with my fourth year project, Please be Seated.

Please be Seated is an exploration upon visiting certain ‘institutions’ that evolve around a particular community. I have been heavily inspired by the Deadpan genre, that of which was brought to the artworld by the likes of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Discussing the theme within my dissertation, ‘Can deadpan photographs be emotional?’ has allowed me a deeper understanding of the philosophical and economical reasons as to why we actually photograph. Books such as On Photography by Susan Sontag and the more academic work by Liz Wells, Photography, A Critical Introduction are books that I would strongly advise anyone interested in the field to read.

Deadpan denotes any images that are seen as mundane or emotionless, and as a stark contrast from my earlier, sentimental subjects of home, this new avenue has been completely refreshing. In these works, I have consciously decided to photograph the elements within certain buildings that withhold a sense of ambiguity as to where they have been taken. I wanted to photograph the components that are mundane and boring: objects of the every day. I wish to leave it to the audience to decipher what kind of establishment these photographs were taken in, working with how much I consciously choose to expose has definitely been an underlying ingredient to my work.

This work will be included in my degree show that will be on view from the 22nd of May 2020.

Although Please be Seated has been my main project since the beginning of my final year, I have made an effort to photograph my friends and family in order to improve my skills. Here I have shown some other works of mine that are also available to view on my website.’

All photos are taken and copyrighted by Shonagh – if you would like to see more of her work or make contact you can find her on Instagram.

20th February 2020