Sharon Boothroyd/Young

Sharon Boothroyd is a feminist photographic artist from London.  She has done several series of work that use a combination of words and images. The words are not always explicit or shown but inform the photography.

If you get married again, will you still love me?  – is based on the questions asked by children of their absent/separated fathers. The images are stylised and manufactured, not taken of the actual families – however this allows her to be explicit with the emotions involved without risking harm to the original children. They show the common and frequent problems that occur in these situations. The images (at least on her website) are not titled, and the question/conversation is not shown but it is obvious that these children, ranging in age from babies to teenagers are unhappy. Some are sulking, some looking away. In spite of being staged it gives an intimate and real view into the lives of many children.

They all say please is a series of images based on prayers that Boothroyd found in online prayer forums. In this case the images are accompanied by a shortened version of the prayer that sparked the image. In many images people are shown, alone and lonely. In others there is an empty space that should be filled with happy people, for instance, an empty cinema with a blank red screen accompanies the words Please do not let a romance grow between them.  Even the bright and cheerful images, when read alongside the words become unbearably sad. It makes me wonder whether people ever pray (or at least post prayers) when they are happy. I had a quick look and the overwhelming theme seemed to be asking for healing, for oneself, for others or for the world. Not unexpected in the present time.

In Disrupted Vision Boothroyd again uses words. Here she took photos of strangers with a Polaroid camera and asked the people to comment on them. The responses are written on the Polaroid, I think by Boothroyd herself.  This has the effect of making the image ambiguous, who’s viewpoint should we believe? The photographer or the subject?

The Subtext of a Dream combines images, water at its most  beautiful, simple and enigmatic (at least the ones I have seen) with words reappropriated from stories by a  variety of authors to make a fantasy story about a fictional woman, Madame Beaumaris. It is a story about someone who may or may not be having real events happening to her. Or are they fantastic hysterical imaginings? They are certainly erotic. In an interview she says ‘it’s simply human nature to tell stories (from an Ursula Le Guin essay). To understand ourselves and our histories. I think that’s why I do it too – to seek understanding’ (Paterson, 2018).

I found her work fascinating and the use she makes of text to inform her images makes me want to do the same. The words are not always there – but they have clearly influenced the carefully considered images. I wish I could see more of them. I wish I could read the whole of The Subtext of a Dream.

To see her images, check her website:


Paterson (2018) Artists at the RCA: Meet Sharon Boothroyd. At: (Accessed 29/05/2020).

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