INTERVIEW: Hannah Laycock

Fòcas Programme Director Katherine Parhar interviews Fòcas India shortlisted artist Hannah Laycock, a photographer based in Nairnshire about her project Awakenings.

© Hannah Laycock

F: Awakenings is about you diagnosis with MS. Do you feel the metaphorical language you use develops as your experiences of and with your condition develop?
H: I guess, the work that I create about my experiences with MS will always use some form of metaphorical language as a way to better communicate, to a wider audience, the experiences one can have with the condition.  MS always changes and with that, I guess, my way of metaphorically communicating that will develop with it.  It’s an intuitive process that I also allow for serendipity to play it’s part.
F: You say the project questions the notion of neurological ‘lack’ – what is meant by that ‘lack’ and what does it mean for you?
H: Neurological ‘lack’ is a thought that comes from Oliver Sacks book, ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’.  The book tells the histories of some of Sacks patients that lived with various forms of neurological disorders.  Sacks discusses deficits and excesses in the first section of the book in which he notes his thoughts on the idea of neurological ‘lack’.  Whether or not the neurological disorder is in fact a ‘lack’ but, perhaps, instead something extraordinary.  I would say the idea of ‘lack’ is something I explore within my work about MS.  The experience of living with the condition is quite a weird, wonderful and devastating thing to be diagnosed with.  You become hyper sensitive to the workings of your body because there are parts of your body that no longer work automatically.  This is something I think we all take for granted when we don’t have the experience of living with a chronic condition.  Asides from the physical ailments, my MS related work has opened up exciting opportunities, and introduced me to some amazing people that I might of otherwise not have experienced or met.  It’s a catch 22 and for me using the single quotation marks for the word ‘lack’ means that the word is used loosely.  In the context of my work, I’m not saying the disease is or isn’t a ‘lack’ because I’m reluctant to define my experience of living with the disease. For me, that would mean it has taken hold of me and become my identity.

© Hannah Laycock

F: You’re currently beginning new work, with the playwright Amy Mackelden, so you’re collaborating across mediums; what does this mean, do you think, for your practice, if anything?
H: I have a passion for working with people.  It’s exciting for me to think about the possibilities that could potentially unfold when working with creative people that use other creative mediums.  I see it as an opportunity to expand my practice in unexpected ways that allow for, perhaps, a more immersive experience when viewing the work.  The idea of pushing boundaries excites me and think in the context of my MS related work with Amy this could really work to its advantage because an immersive exploration could, again, help the wider public to better understand what it is to have a neurological condition such as MS.

Hannah Laycock was born in, Scotland. She Lived in London and Brighton for 10 years and returned to the Highlands of Scotland in Spring 2015.

Hannah studied photography at the University of Brighton. Her latest project, ‘Awakenings’, documents her diagnosis and subsequent experiences of living with multiple sclerosis; select images are currently showing at Glasgow Women’s Library as part of the women’s photography collective WildFires. Her work has been recognised in international competitions such as International Talent Support, Italy, and has appeared as the cover piece, including an extended essay written about her work, in the BMJ’s Medical Humanities journal in February of this year. She has also been interviewed about her work for BBC Radio Scotland.