OCA Level 3: Body of Work/Contextual Studies

Category: Research

Bess Atwell

Listening to the radio one Sunday morning, I heard a song by Bess Atwell that I enjoyed and added it to my Spotify playlist. I had not heard of Atwell before so had a quick look at her bio on Spotify and it immediately resonated with me:

“There is a comfort in the familiar. Yet it is precisely when we are most comfortable that we begin to ask questions. Artist Bess Atwell is full of questions: on life, death, love, loss…and how things at that at first seem mundane become profound when looked at in a different light.”

Out of all of the reading I have been doing lately, it is theories of the everyday and everyday life that continue to come back to me. I love the idea of how the “mundane [can] become profound when looked at in a different light” – it is something that I am beginning to realise is the overarching theme of my photography and also something that is usually present in the work of artists of all genres that I admire and enjoy. 


Tracy Chevalier on Tom Hunter and daily life

Living in Hell, from the series ‘Living in Hell and Other Stories’ (2003-4) ©Tom Hunter (Reproduced with permission)

Researching the  work of Tom Hunter, I came across this quote by Tracy Chevalier from her essay ‘Making an Art Out of Telling Stories’ from the catalogue accompanying Hunter’s series Living in Hell and Other Stories:

“Everyday life is full of small, familiar moments strung together that repeat themselves over and over. We eat, we breathe, we walk, we sit, we talk, we sleep. How peculiar when something outside of that mantra erupts; it shakes the placid surface of daily life. That, whether we admit it or not, is thrilling.” (Hunter, 2006: 12)

These words perfectly encapsulate what makes Hunter’s series, in which he recreates scenes suggested by lurid and sensational headlines he came across in his local paper The Hackney Gazette – the banality of the everyday and familiar transformed momentarily.


Hunter, T. (2006) Living in Hell and Other Stories. London: National Gallery Company Limited.

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