10 Minutes With Phil Starkey
Welcome to the first of our artist Q&As. Have a question you want to ask? Send it to [email protected]
Phil (Phiippa) Starkey is an English photographer based in the South of England. Her work celebrates the beauty she finds on her doorstep in Devon and Dartmoor.
What led you to be doing art?I’ve always known from a young age that I leaned towards the arts. I used to be involved in amateur dramatics as a child, I played the flute for years and taught it too, took music at college, and used to enjoy art at school. Also my Dad used to paint landscapes, is also a skilled traditional signwriter and has always appreciated art, so he was also definitely an influence from a young age. So, for me, becoming a photographic artist was a very natural thing. However this didn’t come out until I was turning thirty, so it was quite late on, and to be frank it found me as opposed to me finding it.
What about the creative process excites you the most?Freedom. Freedom to do what you want, when you want and how you want to. Art is about personal expression and the creative process allows you to continually grow and change in whichever way suits you. You don’t have to be boxed in if you don’t want to be. The freedom the whole process gives makes me very happy in myself unlike anything else and that in turn comes out in my work.
What do your artworks express about you?My work very much reflects my moods. At times that can be an inner calm and thoughtfulness, particularly with my sunrise shots as that’s when I usually feel at my most peaceful and meditative. Sometimes my images can show a lot of energy too though as with my ICM’s (intentional camera movements). Those are very playful, experimental and expressive of what I’m doing at that exact moment. In general, though, my work very much reflects my love of and connection with the landscape and natural world on the whole, it’s played a massive part in my life over the years and in some respects has helped to shape me into the person that I am now.
What do you do when you get stuck?Initially, get cross and frustrated. After a little thought, I calm down and step back a bit, try not to put pressure on myself to produce something, and sometimes just put the camera down for a while. Using your eyes without the viewfinder can often bring back your focus on what you want to ‘see’ in your photographs.
How do you deal with criticism of your work?With an open mind to learning. Everyone has different ideas of how things should or could be done, there is no wrong or right but each of these ideas can help you to change and progress when applied to your own work. You’ve just got to listen, try out, and see what works best for you. Also if the criticism is negative you mustn’t take it personally, everyone sees things differently.
If you and I were to trade places tell me one thing I should know about yourselfI can’t stand mouth noise, you know, when people eat with their mouths open and you can hear their food? Hate it. To me it’s like fingers nails being dragged down a black board and it makes my skin feel all funny and sometimes I actually have to leave the room haha!
If you could become one of your artworks which one would it be?It would have to be this one of Wheat Fields in Rattery, Devon because it’s uncomplicated, warm, bold, full of boundless energy, lively and bright, and just shouts confidence to me. If I could be like this image all of the time I’d be a very happy person!
What is your favourite piece and why?
This out of focus image of some Snowdrops is still by far my most favourite image that I’ve shot to date. I took it at the beginning of 2017 whilst pretty much laying down on a well used path in some gardens with people walking around me looking like I was barmy and wondering what on earth I was doing. It was cold and it was in the evening if I remember rightly, with the sun directly in front of me. Snowdrops are one of my favourite flowers and I’d been inspired to try out of focus shooting after seeing one of Ross Hoddinott’s beautiful flower photographs where he’d used this technique. I tried and tried to get it right and it proved a lot harder than I’d imagined, but when I took this I instantly fell in love with it. It’s so simple with suggestions of the grass around the base of the plant and just a hint of the sunlight coming through the petals. The softness of it creates a warm and comfortable feeling to it too. I don’t care if it’s technically correct or not, I just love it for what it is.