Shia is an artist working with photo, film, text and sculpture. Much of their work has been centered around marginalised voices and about growing up in the landscape of working-class Catholic Ireland.
Below, we talked to them about their inspirations and ongoing projects:
I’m inspired by where I grew up, the eerie quiet of suburban neighbourhoods, streetlights, windows, night skies, bored kids. I’m also inspired by movies I watch or books I read, some recent favourites have been Jenny Hval’s Girls Against God, Greg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, Lukas Moodysonn’s Container. I am usually thinking about the different power structures that have affected me growing up, like the family unity, religion, the state, sexuality and gender. Most of my work somehow derives from wanting to be more than your body, especially if the one you find yourself in doesn’t really match how you feel.
I think the first training I encountered as a teenager with darkroom photographer has really had a lasting effect on me. I was trained by looking at ‘classic’ photographers all day every day for one year and we had to start out using only B&W film and ‘master’ that before we could move on to colour. I think my brain could have been many things but starting off in a darkroom made my brain very image based. So, even if I don’t see myself as a photographer solely, because I work in many different mediums. I am absolutely a photographer in my brain. When I think it’s in images, when I hear things it’s in images, when I have a new idea for a project it’s always the image first, when I watch movies, I’ll notice the cinematography before anything else.
I’m working on two projects this year. One titled ‘Sites of Dreaming’ which is a photographic documentary project focusing on the experience of several trans people (including myself) in Finland undergoing hormonal replacement therapy. The work is part of a mentorship programme with the Festival of Political Photography in Finland and there will be publication by the end which will hopefully include many interviews with trans people about their experience and will include tips for other people who might want to take hormones themselves. The second project is a short film ‘Milk’ made with the Academy of Moving People and Images in Helsinki. Milk is about the struggle of a young child growing up in a situation of domestic abuse in Catholic Ireland. The film goes into production in June 2021.
I think art has been the only thing keeping me relatively grounded during this entire year, both my own making of it and experiencing of others making it. I have been grateful for the many film festivals that have gone online this year and being able to see films from all over the world. There is a lot to say about the future of art after this, and what is useful to take forward into this new landscape, but that’s a whole essay type of answer.
There were a lot of fluctuating conditions with Futures 2020, with exhibitions being cancelled and moved online, and the outcomes changing with each moment, but the team handled it very well and the online studio visits and meetings were really interesting and beneficial. I was happy to be part of such a wonderful group, and Angel and Julia from PhotoIreland are really supportive and amazing people.