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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Informing Contexts – Current Position

“Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.”

– Ansel Adams

My current practice is based around photography as fiction and as art.  I stage my images to emphasize the beauty of the subject matter, the tonality, and the composition.  I am keen on the use of chiaroscuro ‒ the use of dramatic lighting and shading to convey an expressive mood.  I manipulate my photographs as a means of “creating” an image rather than simply recording the scene. I do not document reality.  My goal is to invite the viewer into a fantasy world where they can forget the reality of the conflict and darkness of real life.

Photography for me is about escapism. I see life as a performance.  It is a world where fairies and mythical creatures occupy the same reality as everyday life. I aim to create dreamlike images in which fiction and reality merge, and meanings shift.  This work allows me to explore hidden areas of my imagination and to express my interpretation of life and the fantasy world. I operate in a world where light-heartedness dominates and where rules are meant to be broken. My photographs aim to project an emotional intent into the viewer’s realm of imagination.

Figures 1 and 2: Sutherst 2016

Figures 3 and 4: Sutherst 2017

In the creation of my images, I often attempt to blur the line between photography, embroidery and art.  By focusing on techniques and materials, I intend my work to present a perfect finish and tactile nature.  I enjoy experimenting and developing my work based on the results.  I often create several practically identical images, develop different techniques on these and repeat my ‘mistakes’ in order to perfect my vision for the image.

Through multi-layered images, I aim to astonish and manipulate the viewer leaving them with a mix of conflicting feelings and thoughts. My images withhold some of the story. Viewers are left to interpret the meaning of the scene, using their own life experiences to inform their interpretation. In many ways, my images will not completely answer all the questions about the meaning of a subject, but will open up a dialogue about it.

Figures 5 and 6: Sutherst 2016

My current work expresses a variety of ideas and techniques; although not all are sophisticated enough yet.  I have work to do on clarifying the direction and scale of the images, as well as developing the techniques used.  I tend to work with individuals who are open minded and keen to try new things.  Each subject I have photographed is asked to tell me what they would like to be portrayed as. Moving forwards my work aims to explore the relationships between stereotypes and the depiction of fantasy creatures in modern culture.

Aesthetically, Margarita Kareva has influenced my digital artwork. Kareva produces dreamlike, challenging imagery with strong female characters borrowed from fairy tales and the like. She also incorporates absurdity through props and animals. Her digital manipulation enhances the other-worldliness. In contrast to my work Kareva depicts beauty alongside fantastical excess, whereas I choose what I consider to be more challenging subjects. I am more concerned with a degree of unsettling reality in my models than the ‘polish’ of Kareva’s people. Like Diane Arbus, I aim to use subjects that explore the incongruity of the ‘ordinary person’, using non-models in my images where possible.

Figures 7 and 8: Sutherst 2016

My most successful images to date are the embroidered images.  These are tactile and the embroidered aspect is a response to the narrative in the original image.  There is still work to do here though.  I feel that some of these images lack a degree of sophistication in the style of embroidery added.  This is an area for development and improvement. I plan to develop my embroidery skill level to enable me to tackle more intricate and considered designs.  I also plan to develop machine stitching techniques as well as hand stitching techniques.


Figure 9: Sutherst 2016

A weakness of the work at the moment is that I have missed a few opportunities to explore the story of my subjects fully and understand why they have made the choices they have about how they want to be portrayed.  This deeper engagement with my subjects will enable the work to develop to a clearer and more resolved outcome.  In addition, some of the images are unresolved and need to be developed fully.  This will be achieved through experimentation and response to feedback from viewers.

Figures 10 and 11: Sutherst 2016


Adams, A. From  John Paul Caponigro€“ Digital Photography Workshops, DVDs, eBooks. 2017. 22 Quotes By Photographer Ansel Adams – John Paul Caponigro€“ Digital Photography Workshops, DVDs, eBooks : John Paul Caponigro Digital Photography Workshops, DVDs, eBooks. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 07 February 2017].

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