To begin with, she is dyslexic. When she reads a page, she reads it for its spacial awareness and font/text before actually reading the words. And growing up, she had access to many art books at home. Morag naturally fell into appreciating the arts from a young age. She became interested in Jan Vermeer’s work. Vermeer is a Dutch painter (1632-1675) who specialized in painting the day to day life of the middle class within interiors. Morag is specifically fascinated by the way Vermeer paints light. And looking at his work only educated young Morag more on the beauty of light within space. She also admired that the situations he painted were real. The subjects were always engrossed in what they were doing, not peering out at the painting’s audience. They were so real.
Morag also loved the Vermeer’s ability to paint with a very rich color palette. A lot of the time, his paintings would adorn primary and opposing colors. It was exciting. Morag then tried to take painting classes. She loved to attempt to emulate and adopt the skills that Vermeer had once adopted. But her painting teacher told her that she should just become a photographer, as painting was not her strongest suit.
In Vermeer’s painting below, you see a woman. Beyond the general form of the interior, Vermeer gives us symbols to understand the background of this woman. There is a map hung on the wall, symbolizing her having a worldly perspective, and a book to show us she is educated. You can also notice that she is pregnant, leading us to believe that she is married and is living a stable life. Which brings the audience to conclude that she is middle class.
As Morag became more involved with photography, she also started to appreciate the work of other photographers. Tom Hunter, a photographer based in London, create images that are similar to Vermeer in color palette and situation. Below is one of his iconic photos, “Woman Reading Possession Order” (1968). It’s reminiscent of a classic painting. The story behind the image is that the woman in the photo hd been squatting in the 60’s in London. And the letter in her hands contains gravity, it changes the course of their lives. Morag explained that she also really admires the movement within the image, with the baby looking up at the mother, and the mother peering at the letter, which also happens to be in the same angle pointing towards the baby. You cannot help but look back and forth between the two and think of how this moment touches both of their lives in very different ways.
Morag tells us that she tends to emulate this idea of motion within an image. Whenever she can, she likes to create circular routes for the eyes when staging a photograph. It tends to keep the viewer longer, sending them through a handful of loops while viewing the piece itself, creating room for thought and reflection.
Another photographer that Morag also appreciates is Philip Lorca di Corcia. She explained that his project, “Hustlers”, played a huge role in pulling her interests towards documentary. “Hustlers” was created in homage to di Coreia’s brother, who had fallen into the drug scene for financial support and ended up dying from AIDs. When he died, di Corcia was angry. His emotions fueled him to create a project defining the disenfranchised in America.
If you look at the photo below, you can see a cinematic photo. At first glance, it’s romantic. But if that’s all you see, you’re not looking close enough. You see a young man standing outside on the street, he’s depicted as someone who has fallen into drugs, and he’s peering into iconic America. An affordable dinner, serving burgers and milkshakes under the cloud of music administered by a jukebox. But these are things the boy cannot attain. Philip Lorca di Corcia captioned each of these photos with the name of the model, and how much he paid them. And the hard truth? The models are actually poor boys on the streets that have most likely fallen into drugs and live a dangerous lifestyle.
Morag is also constantly inspired by Film noir in the creation of her own work. Although films like “Brief Encounters” are made on shoestring budgets, the lighting is harshly beautiful in it’s own way. The women of the films are softly lit with beauty fighting techniques (highlighting cheek bones and jaw lines). And the shadows of the stills tend to burn into blackness, often loosing information in a cool and iconic way. The men in these movies are often harshly lit, creating sharp shadowing while wearing hats or standing behind corners.
Another film that inspires Morag is “Reservoir Dogs”, directed by Quentin Tarantino. The use of rich opposing primary colors does well for a Vermeer fan. She believe that when color is used well, it evokes emotion and memories within people, and I would agree with her on that note.