Kathryn Polley

Solid, defined, structural. Paper thin. What was once a two-dimensional piece of paper, folded and manipulated into a fragile semblance of volume and space, takes on a solidity in its photographed form that was never really there. I am reminded of the deceptive nature of anxiety and depression which allows a mother to go for months not realising the pain that their child is in. The apparent robustness of the origami heart hides the empty space behind. Origami is a series of images that plays with notions of perception, experiments with connections between the tools we use to cope with mental health issues and the ways we sometimes inadvertently sabotage our own efforts - stereotypes, signs and symbols, peer pressure, masks, veneers and sense of self.

It's not though, is it? If you are tired, not eating well, in pain, socially isolated, suffering the effects of poverty or poor housing, grieving or coping with unsupportive relationships, the physical toll on your body impacts your mind. It's all tied up together.

Dry your eyes. Language and the way we choose to use it makes for a very powerful tool which should be handled with care. It might not be a global thing but in my childhood, if you were accused of being 'soft' it meant you had no backbone, couldn't stand up for yourself, crumbled too easily in the face of adversity, were daft for being too easily upset over trivial things. It was not a compliment. It fostered the idea that it wasn't okay to admit to being upset. It encouraged concealment and deceit and discouraged conversation, healing, or sharing. I prefer to think of 'soft' as comforting, warming, reassuring, welcoming.

Endure: to suffer patiently, to last. Days go by and the immediate crisis has passed. There is ongoing worry and confusion, but normal things have to keep happening and so we do them and time passes and some days I forget to be concerned. My husband wanted me to throw the tulips out. They were long past their best; the plump youthful petals had withered to old skin and the stems, no longer succulent, were stringy and brittle. It was when he mentioned it again, three days later, the tulips now bent double over the edge of my grandmother’s jug that I wondered if the effort of keeping up normal was having same effect on us. Would I turn around one day and find us withered? Or could we suffer this and outlast it?

Nearly There, Yet - Nature May Heal And Give Strength To Body And Soul Alike (John Muir)

Nearly There, Yet - Nature's Peace Will Flow Into You As Sunshine Flows Into Trees (John Muir)

Nearly There, Yet - Between Every Two Pine Trees There Is A Door Leading To A New Way Of Life (John Muir)

Nearly There, Yet - The Stillness Is At Once Awful And Sublime

Album Familia - Body Language

Album Familia - Back Walks Cost One Pound. Up Front.

Album Familia - She's Singing Again

Album Familia - This Is What I Do Now

Crime & Punishment

Kathryn Polley

Kathryn Polley is a photographer and educator based in the west coast of Scotland in Helensburgh.  Her personal practice is concerned with the means by which we seek to construct and experience a sense of identity, exploring the confines of family, community and geography, as well as more broadly examining the notion of belonging.

I find myself looking at the territories we create, the boundaries we set for ourselves, the connections we seek and the things we choose to represent us. 

Much of my work is focused on my own observations as I navigate the experience of being an adult adoptee coming to terms with a sense of ‘lack’ in my own identity, and an affinity for the liminal, using photography as a therapeutic tool.  Health, both mental and physical, environmental and social concerns have provided the impetus for projects that consider our impact on the world around us and how we fit into it so that work which might begin on a very personal level becomes something much more universal.

A graduate of the Glasgow School of Art where she was a nominee for the school’s Newbery Medal, Polley was the first prizewinner in the 2017 Jill Todd Photographic Award for her work ‘Album Familia’.  Some of this work was published in the journal for the Scottish Society for the History of Photography.  Kathryn Polley has exhibited in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London.


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