beautifully mundane

Inspired by her favourite films, Megan Doherty makes everyday life magical
By Lara Monro | Art | 31 May 2022

Initially, growing up in Derry, Northern Ireland, Megan Doherty wanted nothing more than to escape in search of adventure. However, this all changed when she first picked up a camera, discovering that she could project her internal world onto her surroundings. Transforming her intense feelings of restlessness, boredom, and claustrophobia into staged and real-life images, Doherty used her friends as muses to present an ethereal and captivating narrative around Derry’s youth and subculture.

These early works culminated in her beautiful debut book, Stoned in Melanchol. Inspired by her favourite films – the likes of Paris, Texas, Lost in Translation and Bualo 66 – Doherty translates everyday life through a lens of fantasy and dream, making the most casual of situations – bike rides, parties, a morning smoke, a trip to the shop – appear magical. Fresh from winning the Hennessy Championing Scenes award – a prize that celebrates the music photographers spotlighting subcultures around the world – at the inaugural ARS Music Photography Awards, Doherty is now looking further afield, plotting her second photobook and showing work alongside Martin Parr in Paris later this year.


Lara Monro: I’m interested to hear about your experience growing up in Derry, how was it was the catalyst for you picking up a camera?
Megan Doherty: I had a dierent relationship with my hometown growing up than I do now. I felt that it was a dead end and believed I had exhausted everything it had to oer me. I wasn’t in a position where I could move away at the time, so I picked up a camera as a way to project the world in my head onto the landscape in front of me. In hindsight, I realise this was a rather naive viewpoint. This town brought me together with some of the most creative people I’ve ever known and together we created memories from adventures.

LM: It’s about finding the beauty in the mundane?
MD: It’s completely dependent on what you consider beautiful or mundane. For others, someone sitting isolated at a party could be considered banal and not worthy of being captured, however, for me, this was an image I had in my head for some time, and the idea of capturing loneliness and melancholy within a photograph was something I considered beautiful.

LM: You’ve created scenes inspired by your favourite films – can you tell me why, and which ones?
MD: I’m hugely inspired by cinema and I feel this naturally comes across in my work. I’m drawn to the storytelling elements that exist within a film still — location, character, costume and expression all combine to create the atmosphere of a scene. Films such as Paris, Texas, Lost in Translation, Bualo 66, Pierrot Le Fou, Christiane F. are just a select few that impact my work, however this list is ever-changing.

I picked up a camera as a way to project the world in my head onto the landscape in front of me.

‘House Party’ / photography by Megan Doherty

Photography by Megan Doherty   

LM: You’ve previously said that you see your friends as muses – is this still the case?
MD: Absolutely, we’re part of such a creative group, it’s hard not to be inspired. That said, I think it’s important to pull inspiration from as many sources as possible to not limit creativity. I try to keep an open mind and find beauty in everything that comes my way.

LM: However you never appear in any of your photos, why is this?
MD: I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to remove myself from the photographs, I think it was more of a case of striving to create a form of escape for myself, and in order to do that, I would need to construct this world from behind the lens, rather than place myself in front of it. While I’m not physically present in the photographs, there’s a definitely part of me in each image as I attempt to communicate my experiences and emotions.

LM: And how do you think these formative years capturing ideas of youth, freedom, beauty from a small-town perspective have influenced your current work?
MD: I’m still very drawn to the idea of youth and the culture that comes with that, so this will be something I’ll continue to document. However, it’s been interesting to see how my interests continue to evolve as I grow — I’m excited to explore new avenues and themes rather than limit myself to one subject.

Photography by Megan Doherty   

LM: You recently won the Hennessy Championing Scenes Award at the ARS Music Photography Awards, what did that mean to you?
MD: Winning the Championing Scenes Award has honestly been one of the highlights of my career to-date. To have the judges (Simon Wheatley, Rankin, Shy One) who were involved select my image has been surreal and I’m so grateful. The Championing Scenes category was announced first on the night, and once I took to the stage to collect my award, I was whisked away for interviews, so it was a bit of a whirlwind but I loved every minute.

LM: What is next for you?
MD: I’ve just begun working on a new photographic series which will involve 16mm film as well as still photographs, and hopefully as the work develops, I can look into publishing a second book and exhibiting the work. Apart from my own personal endeavours, I’m looking forward to upcoming commissions — particularly with Hennessy and also creating and exhibiting work alongside Martin Parr in Paris later this year.

Follow Megan on Instagram.

Photography by Megan Doherty   


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