Young Masters: Focus on Photography|Sophie Harris Taylor

09. Sophie Harris-Taylor, Untitled from the series Slight Wounds, 2013, photograph, 53.5x80cm

Sophie Harris-Taylor’s photographic series Slight Wounds channels the paintings of the Renaissance. The statuesque depictions of bodily perfection in the classical female gods have a simplistic purity as well as a romanticised idealism. They show their subjects as almost inhuman, as mythical immortals. Stylistically and technically Slight Wounds recreates this, from composition and form to light and colour. However Harris-Taylor’s women are not gods. They are, to use the vernacular, ‘real women’, with their scars, stretches, bruises and cracks there in detail to be seen by all. The detachment of the sitters’ heads and faces emphasises this, giving the viewer no option but to scrutinise and find beauty in the body as an object. Somehow this also reveals some essence of their character in a way a portrait would only obscure. This raises them above the human; placing imperfections upon an altar and making gods of the truth.

Harris-Taylor is a London-based photographer. She graduated with a BA(hons) Photography and MA Design from Kingston University. She works exclusively with natural light which lends the work an unusual softness and depth. Primarily she works as a fine artist, as well in the fashion and music industries, however this often crosses into documentary photography. She has been shortlisted for The Renaissance Photography Prize, Wapping Bankside Project, London, (2013). Exhibitions include: Artisan80 Gallery; Association of Photographers; and OSO, (all London).



What is it about the Young Masters project that you are most interested in?

I think that all art and expression is led by and the result of things which have gone before, it’s rare that this is so openly embraced and celebrated.  For me it has an extra significance since my work is so directly influenced by old masters.

Can you explain to us what your work is about?

In my work above all I seek to be truthful, sometimes brutally so.  I want to examine and scrutinize the familiar and the natural, particularly people.  In many ways this process puts these familiar forms on a pedestal, giving significance to what is often hidden in plain sight.  To achieve this I am heavily influenced by the Renaissance painters, especially with their use of natural light.  This means that everything in the image is harnessed and constructed from nature and reality.

In this series, Slight Wounds, I have applied these ideas to the female form, particularly with regards to their vulnerability and natural decay, without resorting to sensationalism or hyperbole.  By removing the sitters faces I feel the work reveals some essence of their character which a portrait can in fact obscure.

Which artist/s are you most inspired by?

Carravagio, Velazquez, Nan Goldin, Helen van Meene, Sofia Coppola.

Can you tell us something about your background?

Born in London, studied BA Photography and MA Design at Kingston University.

What inspired you to become an artist?

As a teenager the camera became something of a comfort blanket, it brought people out of themselves and closer to me and the lens allowed me to see something that I felt perhaps others didn’t.  In many ways this is still true today, but the idea of this being art didn’t come until much later.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be?

A failed artist.

What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?

Having got to work and collaborate, meet and get to know such beautiful people.

What are your plans for the future?

I have recently begun to experiment in moving image, having directed a couple of music videos and would like to develop this further.  I am also looking to exhibit and publish Slight Wounds as a complete series.



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