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Private Rooms - Hannah Byford

In search of truthfulness

Hannah Byford is an artist whose conceptually conceived works pursue certain questions and specifically reflect the impact of images. Her photographs are not intended to document or create artificial worlds, they want to show true images. Hannah Byford says about her working method that her ideas often begin with a disturbing feeling that a thing or theme is not represented truthfully and that she wants to create a counter-image, a true image, with her photography.

Hannah Byford's position thus is not limited to the mere concept of art, but rather extends to an expanded concept of the image, in which art has an inherent exemplary function. As a rule, art is a place where forms of expression are invented, explored and tested with a great deal of freedom, which then often have an effect on areas outside the sphere of art.

The epochs and their respective spirit of the times are often not merely reflected in the art that corresponds to them; rather, art often precedes an epoch and its spirit of the times and, as a quasi-futuristic research laboratory, fulfils its own avant-garde claim. In the case of the present work, the artistic medium and the conceptual approach of the artist are additionally of special importance for the question if and to what extent interactions between artistic forms of expression and social realities exist.

"„An idea usually starts with an unsettling feeling that the subject on my mind isn’t portrayed truthfully, nor being accurately represented. It’s usually something I feel I could portray differently, and one I could shed some light on through my work.“ - Hannah Byford

Authentic image of nudity and intimacy

Hannah Byford sees this trend of using art to create an image that transcends reality and satisfies one's own desires as a constant development that had its origins already in Greek antiquity. There, the exaggerated representation of beauty already meets sexualized nudity. In the case of the first female nude sculpture in which neither breast nor shame was covered by clothing, Aphrodite of Knidos, research agrees that the idealized aesthetic staging of the naked female body can be explained less by a heroized nudity than by an eroticizing image explicitly directed at the male eye.

With her series "Female Exposure" Hannah Byford creates a feminist photographic counter-image to a subject dominated by the male gaze and characterized by aesthetic exaggeration. She presents nude photographs, which were taken in close collaboration with her models and which aim to convey a true and authentic image of nudity and intimacy. The photographs in the series confront a reality in which stereotyped body images and the sexualized representation of women seem to have become the norm. With her work, Hannah Byford offers us the opportunity to pursue a different narrative and to establish a different view of the female body and nudity - one that is sincere and true.

"The nude is the central motif of the series and yet the views of the rooms and backgrounds of the photographic stagings appear to be at least equally important in terms of content." - Johann Brandes

Private Rooms

Under the title "Private Rooms", the KWS Art Lounge NEWCOMER presents 11 photographs from Hannah Byford's "Female Exposure" series, which on the one hand question pudency in the face of nudity and on the other reveal the high degree of intimacy of private spaces. The photographs are united by a uniform pictorial composition and bring together a wide range of different atmospheres and individual expressions. The nude is the central motif of the series and yet the views of the rooms and backgrounds of the photographic stagings appear to be at least equally important in terms of content. In close collaboration with her models, Hannah Byford has succeeded in producing authentically convincing and content-wise condensed photographs that allow us to experience the naturalness of the naked body and the intimate atmosphere of private spaces.

In keeping with her claim to produce true images that adequately represent the subject of her conceptual work in an understandable and unadulterated manner, Hannah Byford has chosen for her series very different models and various authentic locations, which guarantee a high diversity in the photographs. The diversity of the photographs' content is formally unified by their similar composition and thus made comparable with each other. The frontally arranged pictures direct the gaze via their central perspective specifically into the center of the pictorial spaces illuminated by natural light, in the middle of which the nude is placed. The interiors or exterior views occupy a relatively large pictorial space within the composition and predominate in relation to the naked bodies staged in them.

The photographs show how many intimate details the insight into a private life situation reveals and how much the outward appearance of a place is perceived as a reflection of the character of its inhabitants. Within the photographs, the differently designed interior and exterior views seem to offer the functions of decoration, distinction and definition, which otherwise find their expression through the fashion of clothing. Overall, an interesting interrelation between the nude and its surroundings can be observed in the series, which relativizes nudity and emphasizes the function of clothing. Sometimes the pictures of the series appear as if the persons in the respective situation are dressed and the clothes are just not captured in the photographs. The models in many of the photographs do not look as if they are posing especially for a nude, but rather as if regular poses from everyday life are applied to the nude.

Art often precedes an epoch and its spirit of the times

As in the fairy tale "The Emperor's New Clothes", the models seem to be unaware of their own nudity in the photographs and neither shame nor eroticism are expressed through facial expressions or gestures. In terms of content, the pictorial compositions actually appear to be independent of the formal state of the nudity or clothing, and the photographs are ultimately less about a self-confident display of naked bodies than about the display of a normal self-confidence. The exhibition "Private Rooms" shows us images that present nudity as a normal and natural state and transport the atmospheric density of places. The high level of privacy in the rooms enables Hannah Byford to break through the erotic or sexual connotation of the act, which has already become the norm, and to represent the naked female body in intimate moments without misunderstanding it as a voyeuristic sensation.

In this digital exhibition "Private Rooms" you were shown details and parts of the wonderful photographs of Hannah Byford. If you are further interested, we recommend you to visit the live exhibition with all of the 11 prints in large format.

This text is an excerpt from the catalogue for the exhibition "Private Rooms" by the English artist Hannah Byford in the KWS Art Lounge NEWCOMER by Johann Brandes.

Soon you will be able to receive the printed catalogue for a donation directly at the live exhibition. The proceeds go directly to the artist.

Private Rooms - Hannah Byford
7th of August - 15th of Oktober 2020
Tiedexer Straße 20, 37574 Einbeck

About the artists - Hannah Byford & Johann Brandes

Hannah Byford

Hannah Byfords thesis at the University of East London, where she studied with distinction, is entitled Bodies to be Desired; What are the Consequences of "Photoshop Culture" on Women Today? and, according to the artist, lays the foundation for her artistic position.

The question of what kind of images shape women's self-image and the image of women and to what extent these images are manipulated is a fundamental concern of the artist.

Photographer Hannah Byford

Photographer Hannah Byford

Curator Johann Brandes | Credits: Andre Germar

Curator Johann Brandes | Credits: Andre Germar

Johann Brandes

He (*1983 in Hannover) studied Art History, Economic and Social History as well as American Studies in Göttingen, lives and works as an art historian, freelance curator and art mediator in Hannover. In addition to advising and supporting private collections, he is a Studio Assistant to Tomislav Topic / QUINTESSENZ. Furthermore, he is a founding member of C28 | Kunstraum and runs metavier | Galerie vom Anfang und Ende.
In his curatorial work, he focuses on the border areas of art and the relationship between the art business and the enlightened knowledge society.

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