Tagsmart weekly discovery: storytelling through Gillian Hyland’s photographs

Irish photographer Gillian Hyland describes herself as an image-maker and storyteller. Her work is based on her own poems and depicts characters in human dramas and isolated emotional situations. Frozen in time, solitary and vulnerable moments are presented in glorious technicolour and timeless sets. 

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“It’s not about creating a pretty picture, for me it’s the intention that lies beneath it that is truly worthwhile. I’m drawn to the thinking mind behind the face, the subject’s eyes holding a story in their gaze, that is what I aim to capture through my photographs.”

Hyland stages theatrical environments where her characters’ emotions are emphasised by playing with colours, symbols and aesthetic settings. The resulting images are not a literal description of a memory but an ambience, enabling the emotional core and mood to shine through.

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Having worked in publishing, fashion, film and television and creating imagery for editorials, commercials and advertising campaigns, Hyland has evolved into her own distinctive style and released her first fine art series, Words in Sight, in 2014. 

Since then her photographs have been exhibited around the world and received several awards, including Royal Arts Prize, International Photographer of the Year, Travel Photography Society Award, Sony World Photography Award, Magenta Flash Forward Award, La Quatrieme Image, AX3 – American Aperture Award, Moscow International Photo Award, PX3 – Prix de la Photographie and the PDN Curator Awards.

Her most recent body of work, the Windows Into Havana series, reveals experiences and emotions from her trip to Havana, Cuba. Playing with the notion of nostalgia, each image suggests a larger narrative and taps into our understanding of feelings and beliefs. The series explores Hyland’s sense of self and society and aims to engage and trigger an emotional response from the viewer.

Currently showing at Sunny Art Centre until September 4, Hyland has been shortlisted for the Sunny Art Prize 2017. Her works Eyes Shut and The Hearts Shadow have also been selected to be exhibited during the photo festival in Kuala Lumpur in the WhiteBox Gallery, opening on September 9.