My first glimpse of Kirsty’s work was in the February 2016, RPS Journal as it dropped on the doormat. The hauting image of the almost victorianesque style dress and white pale faced model forced me to open the journal and read the article.
Within minutes of reading I echoed my own thoughts and feelings about life with a terminal disease and the escapism of photography immersing myself in something which is a welcome distraction from the daily grind and constant reminders of being ill.
Kirty’s mother Maureen passed away in 2008 from cancer. Kirsty’s mother a former teacher had a huge influence on her childhood of reading stories way past her age when mother’s stopped reading stories to their children. Her biography was of great interest how she started her career in one direction studying fine art and photography gaining an honours degree in fashion design and textiles at Ravensbourne College of Art.
Practically unknown at the beginning of six and half year journey now an award winning fine-art photographer.
She posted self-portraits, titled Nocturne, on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/kirsty841/
My mothers widow…….
In this image I see the veil as a symbol between the living and the dead and yet we are only moments from one place to another, whatever we believe that other place to be. The sombre expression and gaze downward and almost inward. You can almost sense the grief, loss and overwhelming sadness yet at the sametime there is that knowledge that above her mother is still connected albeit by memories surrounding her. The colour muted blue representing her sadness and that no matter how much time will pass the loss will never completely heal.
Maureen’s funeral was a small affair and Kirsty felt that she should mark this by working in her memory on ‘Wonderland’.
I had depression and was becoming reclusive, so I was drawn to running off to the woods and creating a more beautiful experience than I had in reality. Then I started releasing the images on Flickr and created a little blog which two people would read if I was lucky.'(CLARK, 2016)
Mitchell created imaginative characters’ incorporating them into her blog, which gained a following and by 2011 she had given her job in fashion up and pursued her photography.
Mitchells’ philosophy is not to just create a unique piece but experience it, feel it and create it and be part of that otherwise she would be denied ‘incredible experiences'(CLARK, 2016). She admits that whilst she uses Photoshop to retouch and process her photographs it is important that she makes the costumes and props by hand.
In 2012, ‘Wonderland’ featured on the Daily Mail website and the whole story went viral. The power of the internet and Social Media cannot be underestimated but she doesn’t believe that it doesn’t ensure success on its own. ‘You can’t magically create a fan base. If people like your work, they relate to it. It’s as simple as that.'(CLARK,2016)
Mitchell was inundated with mail echoing her own sorrow and loss. I can see why her personal story plays a pivotal relationship and attraction to her work.
Nearing the end of the photography for the Wonderland book in November 2014 she decided that she would self publish. The book containing not just the images but her 65,000 words of her personal diary. The book in her words, ‘This book is a circle of life, love and loss, and in the final pages there’s me ready to go on to a new stage. It’s the perfect end. The timing is extraordinary. You couldn’t make it up if you tried.’ (CLARK,2016)
Clearly, Kirsty Mitchell is a talented designer and photographer. She can relate to her viewers through her powerful images ignited by her childhood and her mother’s passing and journey of living with a terminal illness. I can relate to that. I can see how my own personal experiences and journey have infulenced my work even in a short space of time. I don’t have the dexterity or skills to make wonderful costumes or sets so I take what I have around me and the landscape, which I feel most take for granted as everyday is a blessing.
I agree that Social Media doesn’t ensure success but does play a part and without some sort of context or narrative in my work that connection is lost between the viewer and myself. The prior preparation, meticulous attention to detail is again something I can see in myself I am somewhat of a perfectionist and revisit places time and time again sometimes not even taking a single image. I visited one location Deal Pier a dozen times before I caught the light, cloud and tides right before being satisfied with “Perfection Personified”, gaining a Judge’s selection and third place with the Disabled Photographer’s Society.