158 - Kirsty Mackay


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Kirsty Mackay is an photographic artist, educator, activist and filmmaker whose research-led documentary practice highlights social issues surrounding gender, class and discrimination. She has an MA in Documentary photography from University of South Wales, Newport.

Her current book project The Fish That Never Swam, considers class and discrimination against working-class people. Combining first-person narratives with photographs, it takes Glasgow as a case study, looking at the root causes of the city’s poor health outcomes and lower life expectancy. Examining the relationship between the environment, government policy, historical trauma, and public health, it shifts the emphasis from individual life style choices to the effects that political policies have on our bodies. The book will be published in October 2021.

Kirsty’s first book, self-published in 2017, is My Favourite Colour Was Yellow which challenges the stereotypes of girlhood. Kirsty set out to photograph girls with their pink possessions as a way to understand how this one colour has become dominant. Working over a five year period, making portraits of the girls in their bedrooms and on the high street, Kirsty has created a document of this time for girls growing up in the UK. After a period of documenting Kirsty began to probe deeper and the title of the book My Favourite Colour Was Yellow reflects the theme at the heart of the book - a lack of choice.

Kirsty’s work has been exhibited internationally, most recently in the Facing Britain group show at the Museum Goch, Germany, an observation of British Documentary Photography since the 60’s alongside works by Martin Parr, Anna Fox & David Hurn.

On episode 158, Kirsty discusses, among other things:

  • ‘The Glasgow Effect’
  • Growing up feeling she could do anything
  • ‘Poverty Porn’
  • ‘Managed Decline’
  • ‘Analysis after the event’
  • The ACE test
  • How just existing as a woman in photography puts some men’s noses out of joint
  • Coming across misogyny in photography
  • Calling herself an activist
  • Being reliant on other people’s stories
  • Her foray into video
  • How class needs to be included in the call for diversity

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | New book

“When I show some people my pictures they say ‘you’re not showing enough.’ And what I feel I’m fighting against is a middle-class viewpoint. There’s prejudice involved in that of how some middle-class people see working-class people and it fits with that prejudice to portray people as victims…”

169 episodes