Storytelling and Symbols: the Work of Cig Harvey

Born in 1973, Cig Harvey is an English photographer who grew up in Devon and began taking photographs aged thirteen. However, it wasn’t until 1999, when she moved to America to begin her MFA in photography that she first learnt how to use photography as a tool to explore her personal experiences.

Harvey began to take photographs ‘about’ things instead simply ‘of’ things. She developed a method of storytelling that delved into her own past, revealing personal insights through her photographs. This resulted in her work taking a significant turning point and she liberatingly began telling her own stories, rather than other peoples’.

Often highly orchestrated, Harvey’s early works created a fantasy version of her own life experiences. Using herself as a model, each image was self referential and was meticulously mapped out to include specific metaphors, symbols and content. Her self-portrait Plane from 2004 shows her leaping through the sea waves whilst holding a toy plane into the sky. As her work progressed Harvey introduced increasing amounts of spontaneity and has branched out to include other models, such as neighbours, her daughter and husband.

Through all of her work though, photography has been a tool that Harvey has used to revisit and understand the events in her own life. She has tried to make order out of chaos and beauty out of pain. Her work continues to be devoted to visual storytelling and has evolved in conjunction with her own personal life. It now focuses on the present rather than the past.

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