Living in a Material World

It was one of those rare summer days in Manchester where you are uncomfortably hot, but resist the urge to complain about the weather so as not to be ungrateful for the few days a year it isn’t raining. Whilst it required no small amount of concentration not to melt in Hannah Farrell’s studio, we were fortunate to be in the hands of a host who kept us hydrated with lemon and ginger tea and, to our delight, organic cider as our afternoon together unfolded. It would be quite easy to imagine we were somewhere far more tropical than Salford as we sat amongst the gleaming white walls — which Hannah admits she has grown an aversion to lately — and surfaces that are adorned with an array of objects and photographs, some from her own work and some serving as visual stimulation. The Lambrini bottle being utilised as a vase for a sprig of flora perfectly epitomises the selection process Hannah employs when arranging subjects for her work, there is always a healthy balance of tough exteriors and soft details.
It’s hard to assign a specific discipline to Hannah’s work as most of the pieces exist equally as both images and objects, the physical elements almost becoming installations, but not quite. Exercising a great sense of freedom in her process, she is continually “playing with the traditional idea of what a photograph is; pushing it as much as possible”.
In her most recent work, Hannah decided to turn her lens on a specific group, young men. “I photograph the subjects first, and then play with the blown-up prints of them in my studio” she tells us, consistently capturing portraits that feel remarkably intimate. The series of photographs could easily be classically presented as a body of work, but Hannah’s process is far more intricate. Adding layers to the imagery using objects, plants, metaphors and juxtapositions, she constructs a presence and physicality that is becoming increasingly symbolic of her work. “The balls and hoops were sourced from cheap shopfronts on Morecambe promenade. I started papier-mâchéing and painting them to get out of my head and into my body” she explains. “The photographs within photographs somehow explore the nature of photography and simultaneously the nature of the self, both of which are ever changing and impossible to grasp”. Hannah was born and raised in Morecambe and often draws on her time there in her work. “As I was photographing these boys and men, I was thinking about my youth a lot. It was a classic working-class seaside town upbringing, a lot of us were bored, we weren’t stimulated at school and nothing could stop us from doing the things that we were too young to do”.
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Alec Dudson
Founder and Editor-in-chief of Intern Magazine