Connecting fragments of myth to the landscape…

Following on from our interview with Ryan Learoyd earlier this week, we also caught up with Katie Bootland – another exhibitor at Leeds Gallery’s Leeds through a lens and found out a little more about her…

Katie, thanks for agreeing to the interview – let’s start with; how long have you been making photographs – and how did you first get into it?

I have now been photographing for eight years, and first began to use the media seriously in college. The first photographic project I had was documentary; I took a film SLR out in Bradford and shot whatever interested me. I began to see people and places in a different light and started to focus on the stories behind them. I remember meeting one individual, a man that used to sit in the square by the Oastler statue and feed the pigeons and they’d all gather around him and perch on his arms and his hat. Photographing him took quite a long time, as every time I moved the pigeons would take flight, but he told me a lot about his life and time spent in Poland, and I realised then the connection photography has with personal stories and how they can also invite narrative.

How did you make the selection for Leeds Gallery – was it an easy choice or…?

Stone | It is said that sometimes, at day or night, the Town Hall clock strikes past twelve. The people of Leeds freeze and the four stone lions watching the entrance begin to move, greet each other and set about safeguarding the city. They circle the steps three times before returning to their positions. Then the people of the city carry on unaware. It is believed the only way of knowing if the lions have moved is to check their posture and expression; they never return exactly as they were.

I was making work that connected fragments of local myth to landscape and saw Leeds as an opportunity to create a new set of photographs focusing on the dialogue between Leeds as a modern, contemporary city and the history and social culture which is embodied in its unique folklore and local stories. The research was surprising. I wanted to uncover the narratives and present them to a new audience, drawing on Leeds’ cultural heritage and reinterpreting it visually. I find it hard to select a favourite, each image took several days to complete and each was a new discovery of the city in its own way. If I had to choose one I would say ‘Stone’, it focuses on a narrative centred in the heart of Leeds.

You mentioned you’ve an interest in ‘narrative and the created scene’ – can you expand on that a little?

From very early on I have been interested in narratives, stories within images and photographs which suggest something more having happened behind the scenes. I have recently been exploring narrative structure; how stories are essentially made up and comprised. I have begun to translate this to my practice through the created scene. This sometimes involves an element of performing arts, recreating a scene and improvising movement, or as with the Leeds series, separating components of a story and displacing and reinventing them to form the final narrative, through analogue and digital manipulation.

Can you share an image or small series from another project and tell us a little about how it came about and the story behind it.

This project stemmed from exploring folk tales and the memories and associations of childhood. I wanted to make work that began to deconstruct the myth of it being a perpetual state of innocence and timelessness. This perception of childhood as a fixed condition stems from a western culture of fairy-tales often subverted by a patriarchal authority for political needs. The project investigates earlier folk tales, where the emphasis was on a mixed audience, in both gender and age, and a celebration of growth. In redressing the balance of beauty and horror, play and malice, the work draws upon the messages of sexuality, nature and domestication inherent in folklore, superstition and gothic romanticism.

How do you feel about the exhibition?

I feel the exhibition draws on artists from different backgrounds, with diverse practices and collectively highlights and celebrates Leeds, from a wide range of angles. I think the exhibition allows you to see the city anew, and look differently, discovering more about Leeds, from well known landmarks to an ‘underground’ city, literally in some photographs. I feel the range of work and different perspectives embed the theme and create a strong exhibition.

Where next for you? Where do you see your work going next – or any further exhibitions planned?

Exploring narrative structure has led me to work more closely with the elements which form different tales. I am currently working deconstructing and reassembling these different components to play with the way an image is viewed. Source work and sketches are also taking a more central role in my practice. I publish ideas and developments in small run artist publications with Sheer Wonder Press, an independent publishing house which I co founded in May 2011. The next Sheer Wonder event will be at the Ante-Art Bookfair, Saturday 5th May, with full details on the Sheer Wonder Website.

You can see Katie’s work alongside the other photographers at Leeds Gallery until May 16th. You can view more of her work on her own website.

All images © Katie Bootland – all rights reserved.

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