United Kingdom

Casey Orr



Originally from Delaware, USA, Casey Orr now lives in England where she works as a photographer, researcher and Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University. Her work is supported by Leeds Inspired and Arts Council England and has been shown at the University of The Arts, Philadelphia, Jen Bekman Gallery, New York, The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK and on the walls of HM Prison Leeds, the first time the walls of a prison have been used as a space for art.


Saturday Girl

Saturday Girl is a series of portraits of young women – teenagers – specifically as seen through their hairstyles. It is an exploration of hair and its cultural meaning for young women, and how we experience and use the power inherent in becoming visible as women. Saturday Girl was conceived after seeing so many young women in Leeds with ‘big hair’; hair teased and back-combed, styled and extended with hairpieces and wigs. I wondered what it meant, what it said about undercurrents in culture, the unspoken signs that tell of our values and tribe identities and how these things burst forth (whether we intend them to or not) in self-expression. The powerful relationship between photography and self is present in Saturday Girl as the series comments on how we see ourselves, present ourselves and remember ourselves. Photography is now ever-present and ever-public, and through a constant companionship with this ubiquitous friend, we construct who we are; our presentation and our image. These photographs, unlike so many images we see of young women, refuse to become either the clichéd portraits of advertising or the porn-mimicking aesthetic we’ve been handed. Coded, and revealing of other clues to self, the Saturday Girl portraits reveal the unintended.



The Bone Fire series consists of photographs of unlit bonfires and their teenage guardians taken over a five-year period around West Yorkshire, highlighting both tradition and community as well as linking us to the land and the elements around us. The annual November 5th Bonfire – later to be rebranded by James I as Guy Fawkes' Night – was in earlier times known as the Bone Fire, a symbolic burning of the summer's animal carcasses to ward off, and warn of, the oncoming frost; part of the seasonal ritual marking of time, before clock-time, when the world's turn was measured by sun and moon, tides and shifts in the weather. Bone Fires were celebrations, feasts, staking claim to our survival through another cycle and heralding our gathering-together in the face of colder weather. In this fire, people saw off summer and clenched a fist at winter; set a big blaze to measure the distance between harvest's gathering and Spring's seed-sowing Casey Orr's Bone Fire photographs celebrate a modern-day echo of those times, a transient world these kids create for themselves, fun they create without leadership and instruction; the photographs elevating those self-built chaotic structures into sculptures, sculptures that live, burn and die in that one annual breathless week.


By Water

After 12 years living in the north of England I decided it was time to take a different kind of journey back to America, to Delaware, where I'm from. Instead of doing what I usually do, a day of traveling by car over the Pennines and then a flight across the North Atlantic Ocean, I rode my bicycle 127 miles along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal to Liverpool, where I boarded a container ship. Nine days and 3000 miles later I arrived in the small port town of Chester, Pennsylvania, my birthplace. By Water is a series of photographs about how water connects us, how it links us historically through wool, cotton, tobacco and slavery and how it links us now through the often-invisible movement of goods. It began with my desire to take a familiar and historic journey, unbroken by modern transportation; I wanted to understand the distance between my American home and my life in England, and to understand the vastness of the ocean. I wanted to experience the earth, it’s shifting land and seascapes, to feel the changing of atmosphere and culture as an unbound whole. The series shifts and changes to include the people and stories encountered, mixing my intended narrative with other stories, other histories and currents.