CLOSE UP: Becky Warnock - ‘You are not Alive to Please the Aesthetic of the Colonised Eye’

We first met Becky Warnock in 2016 at London Art Fair. Since then she’s taken part in our OPEN in Cambridge, and was on the panel for our Jane Bown talk at Photomonth. As well as working as a Projects Manager at PhotoVoice, Becky has recently completed an MA in Documentary Photography and Photojournalism, with her final project being recognised by 1000 words magazine.

Becky is an artist, facilitator and activist. Her artistic practice crosses photography, film and theatre, using participatory practice to engage with the people that she works with. Becky's focus is creating innovative, community engaged art, powered for social change.

We thought Becky's latest project, which explores ideas of identity and representation, sounded fascinating – so we invited her to share some detail on ‘you are not alive to please the aesthetic of the Colonised Eye’ and talk us through the project in her own words.



My latest project, ‘you are not alive to please the aesthetic of the Colonised Eye’ is an exploration of my relationship to, and understanding of, the role of photographic image within the politics of representation. Using early images from my own practice as a photographer, NGO imagery and media sources, I try to unpick the politics and ethics around modes of representation of Africa within a post-colonial context.


As a white, middle class, British woman, I believe my cultural identity has been shaped by a patriarchal, white dominant society seeking to oppress other perspectives and understandings, actively denying our colonial history. By using images taken by myself ten years ago as stimulus, I try to reflect on my naivety and interrogate the internalised prejudices from my background. Through my work with charities and international development organisations, I have gained an increased understanding and critical awareness of the politics of representation. However, it is easy to reflect on an academic theory without considering its application in everyday life, particularly on a personal level. I wanted to critically consider my position within the complex concepts I was researching – in some ways it was a process of visually ‘checking’ my privilege.  This project is the unpicking of the images, influences and politics that contribute to my current understanding – I’m sure over time it will develop and change, just as my own position will. 



As a participatory artist, I draw on photography and theatre practice to engage with the people that I work with. My focus is creating innovative, community engaged art, powered for social change. Most of my work has been concerned with participation in a traditional form, working with communities affected by an issue the project is seeking to explore, for example survivors of domestic violence, prisoners or young people at risk – both in groups or on a one to one basis. This project is different. This time the subject was me, a previous version of me: my younger self, and the process of participation was re-engagement with images taken by me aged 18 and 21. It was a difficult process, forcing me to really consider how the media and other sources have influenced me, predominantly without me even realising it. As part of the process, I placed some of my images (guerrilla style) on the tube in London where advertisements and charity images often are, and watched as people reacted, or didn’t, to them. I think we need to think about how we see and gather information – creating a visual literacy in which we understand our own internalised prejudices and how external factors influence us. I hope that my process of critical self-reflection will encourage others to do the same. 



All images: © Becky Warnock

You can see more work by Becky Warnock in her Shutter Hub portfolio, here.


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