Exposure: Polly Tootal

Art Director Gem Fletcher examines the work of Polly Tootal, in the latest instalment of a series looking into talent in photography, from recent graduates to photographers breaking the rules…

One of the motivations behind this column is to bring focus to photographic talent that I personally feel deserves a bit of the spotlight. The commercial system operates on the basis of name photographers, a carousel of shooters who dominate our consciousness in every inch of commercial real estate from billboards to banner ads. Often, the only way a photographer can join the ride, is if someone else gets off.

We live in a time of photographer abundance; competition is fiercer than ever. Commissioners want more than a great folio, they want a photographic brand, one with social influence, personality and a unique point of view. It’s tough out there! Every month I hope to introduce new talents into this mix, a lot of them don’t have huge social followings or celebrity parents, but they do have exciting ideas worth sharing.

Polly Tootal has been in the industry on and off for two decades. In the last few years she has solely focused on her own practise, creating a body of personal work “Somewhere in England” that is gaining traction in the art world. She has also shot a mix of interesting commercial and editorial commissions and won a handful of awards.

Polly defines herself as a landscape photographer and was originally inspired by the idea of seeking out exoticism in the British landscape. She started exploring the everyday places we live in, work in and travel through. The landscape that envelops our daily lives but we pay very little attention to. She was on the hunt for subtitles in the ordinary which when framed and decontextualized become extraordinary. She describes her work as “finding beauty and drama in the overlooked and everyday spaces around us.”

‘Somewhere in England’ repictures areas of England with the cinematic gaze usually reserved for the streets of Los Angeles. This shift in status is both playful and poignant. From the mundane glow of a roadside Little Chef, to the seemingly artificial housing development dropped into a lush green landscape. The narrative of each individual landscape flashes back and forward like an emotional pulse. The politics of the environment, it’s past, present and future bleed into each other and create an unnerving beauty within the frame.

Seduced by the aesthetics of order, symmetry and infinity, Polly’s commercial work creates surreal and otherworldly moments which almost have you questioning if these environments actually exist. In contrast her portraiture is accessible and intimate. A delicate mix of chance encounters and observations. It’s an area of her work that I personally would like to see more of.

Polly brings a sense of mystery and wonder into all areas of her work. Her graphic compositions emphasise the almighty industrialisation of our world, while her quiet portraits remind us of our delicate and vulnerable humanity. This interesting dichotomy is a welcome new visual voice in the industry.


pollytootal.com; @pollytootal

gemfletcher.com; @gemfletcher

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