- Text by Shelley Jones
Many photographers make a pilgrimage to Ireland to shoot its storied streets. With a vibrant and difficult history, it is full of the tension, drama and beauty that makes a photography project fascinating. Here, Huck curates four contemporary projects (and one archive) that take a slightly different perspective to the traditional photojournalism aesthetic that defined the image of Ireland for so long during The Troubles. An incredible selection of that work can be seen in the book Magnum Ireland.
My Last Day at Seventeen by Doug Dubois
American photographer Doug Dubois spent four summers in Cobh, County Cork – on the southwest coast of Ireland – where he was serving as artist-in-residence at the Sirius Arts Center. During that time – 2009-2013 – he shot local Irish teenagers as they were coming of age resulting in the project My Last Day at Seventeen. Dubois was drawn to Ireland after the recession hit and this project deals with, in many ways, the hope, fear and uncertainty that plagues the penultimate moments of youth.
Dubois was open about the fact that he staged some of the shots too. He told TIME’s Lightbox: “The project is a mix of classic documentary technique and form with digital tools and, at the risk of sounding pretentious, a contemporary understanding of photography, subjectivity and truth… If I were to apply a literary analogy to the Irish work, I would call it creative non-fiction.”
Postcards by John Hinde
John Hinde was an English photographer who began shooting colour photographs of the Irish countryside as he was travelling around the country with the circus for twelve years. In 1956 he left the circus and set up a studio in Dublin where he began a hugely popular postcard business. As a passionate landscape painter, Hinde enhanced his photographs – often featuring Irish stereotypes (donkeys, red-headed children, etc.) against a lush, seemingly endless backdrop – to capture the imagination of a new wave of tourism sweeping the country.
Fair Trade by Kenneth O’Halloran
Kenneth O’Halloran comes from a small village in the west of Ireland, where his father is the local undertaker. In this project Fair Trade, he documents Irish Traveller culture at fairs around the country. Using classic portraiture, O’Halloran gives his subjects respect and a collaborative sense of expression. He told the World Press Photo in 2011: “Fairs in Ireland are more than places of trade, often forming an important social and cultural event in the county calendar. Women regard them as occasions worth dressing up for. Many fairs focus on horse-trading, carried out to a large extent by traveling people, who belong to an ancient Gaelic nomadic tradition. Some fairs have histories dating back for centuries.”
People In Trouble Laughing Pushed To The Ground by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin
For this project, conceptual South African photography duo Broomberg and Chanarin were given access to the archive of Belfast Exposed, a community photography project formed in 1983 as a belated response to the British army’s often heavy-handed attempts to control images of its activities in Northern Ireland. Each time an image from the archive was used previously it was stickered by a red, yellow or blue dot, and Broomberg and Chanarin made this project by blowing up the fragments of images behind the dots.
Sean O’Hagan said this about the project in The Guardian: “There are pictures of children running, girls dancing, men crying, infants sleeping, but there are also pictures of soldiers on patrol, teenagers rioting and young men and women in black berets and dark glasses. The bigger picture is hinted at, but not overstated or dramatised the way it would be in a book of straight photojournalism. In these random fragments, the mundane and the ominous sit side by side. Speaking as someone who grew up in Northern Ireland, albeit a decade earlier, I was reminded once again of that overlooked aspect of the Troubles: the constant sense of absurdity that attended normalised life.”
Rituals by Rich Gilligan
Here’s what Rich Gilligan told us about his beautiful and contemplative project Rituals in May last year: “Rituals is a collection of photographs made in and around Dublin city centre. My agenda when making this work was to have no agenda and to let go of any clever project ideas I may have had, and instead let the pictures find me. Over time I found myself drawn to locations, people and situations that I felt couldn’t really occur anywhere else other than Dublin. From pigeon fanciers in Ballymun to the leftovers of a burnt out motorbike just off Meath Street, these photographs are quiet observations of the daily rituals of the Dublin I know and the people that give it its character.”