Hannah Starkey: In Real Life at The Hepworth Wakefield

Part of our Exhibitions guide

Maja Lorkowska, Exhibitions Editor
Hannah Starkey, Untitled, May 1997, 1997 framed c-type print mounted on aluminium 122 x 162 cm 48 1/8 x 63 3/4 inches © Hannah Starkey. Courtesy Maureen Paley

Hannah Starkey at The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, 20 October 2022–1 May 2023, from £1.00 - Book now

The Hepworth Wakefield presents In Real Life – a major survey of work by acclaimed photographer Hannah Starkey.

We all know that a picture can tell a thousand words and despite the proliferation of images surrounding us from all directions, the most powerful photographs rarely fail to stand out. Hannah Starkey’s staged compositions of women focus on their subjects in seemingly everyday settings – waiting at the bus stop, browsing through the shelves of a beauty shop or examining their own reflection in a café mirror.

Hannah Starkey, Untitled, January 2013
Hannah Starkey, Untitled, January 2013 © Hannah Starkey. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London


Despite the everyday backdrops, there is little that is mundane about the final images, with the depiction of the subjects hovering between natural and performed. Many of the photographs show women in isolation, literal or implied through their inward-looking expressions, lost in thought, even if they are captured next to their friends. These works might even bring to mind Edward Hopper’s lonely paintings.

The perfectly structured compositions reveal Starkey’s masterful eye and emphasise the female gaze. Already establishing her name at her graduate show at the Royal College of Art in 1997, the artist has worked with women as models ever since, developing her own recognisable style and method of working. Finding street photography “intrusive”, Starkey works with friends or people she approaches on the street, while the locations are carefully chosen and arranged with specific props.

Hannah Starkey, Bus Stop, 2022
Hannah Starkey, Bus Stop, 2022. 2022. C-type photographic print mounted on aluminium. Courtesy of the artist, Maureen Paley, London and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles


In Real Life actually includes work from the artist’s graduate show as well as more recent pieces, such as the newly commissioned series of photographs created this year with young women in Wakefield. Exhibited on a large scale, these everyday scenes gain monumental significance, celebrating women inhabiting public spaces and exalting their role in society as a whole.

For In Real Life, the artist worked with with a group of early career female and non-binary photographers born or based in Yorkshire. The project considered issues affecting emerging artists and supported the development of their practices. The resulting work is on display in the show in Reframing, Reclaiming at The Art House, until 8 January 2023.

Hannah Starkey at The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield

20 October 2022–1 May 2023
From £1.00