24 May 2019

home again

I'm always interested in work of Irish photographers so I was really pleased to see Eamonn Doyle and his collaborators speak at Photo London last week, just after I discovered The Republic by Seamus Murphy. I'm shamefully late finding out about Murphy's work so I have to thank Ben Smith's Little Voice podcast. Recommended listening.
Each of their bodies of work are fascinating - and timely - for me. As well as my ongoing project on European citizens, this year's show for my local photography group is on the theme of Home which I'm using as an opportunity to think about my own roots.
My mum Kate passed away two years ago. A migrant from Galway in the 1950s as my dad was from the north of Ireland it was a given for me that she'd be buried in the place she was born and raised in. The word home was always understood in our house as Ireland. On reflection it's an obvious sign of the dislocation of our lives.
To portray that in a single image presents a challenge, for me at least but hey it's one of the reasons for joining the group. I could look at constructing an image, perhaps a still life of an object, to symbolise my emotions. Perhaps it's more of a collage of different elements. Yesterday I heard a word I hadn't in a long time. Kaleidoscope. It really brought back a memory of one I had as a child. As well as the act of losing oneself in a miniature world of shifting shapes it had a maracas-like quality when you shook the little crystals inside. Simple pleasures.
image of gate,field and tree
An alternative route, inevitable in a way, is a landscape image. I say inevitable as land has both political and personal resonance, as it has I'd guess for many emigrant people. It's the place you left and yet it still has a magnetism that draws you back, sometimes despite yourself. 
I've taken landscape before as holiday snaps, scenic views for the record, with a visual language of fine art oil paintings. None that I ever feel really engaged in the way I do my city pictures. Too proud a townie to be bothered with nature. Perhaps it's time to revisit that. 
The Republic Book Cover
Murphy's book is inspiring for me in this regard. I just needed to see the cover image and it was interesting to hear him talk about that on the podcast as it appeared at a moment when he had real doubts about continuing the project, about his work being good enough to justify its subject. Like a vision he came across this particular stretch of road - that he could never find again - and he was on his way.
Eamonn Doyle's Made In Dublin
Doyle's work really made a splash about five years ago and I was really pleased to see the manner of how he presented his work firstly at Arles and now when I saw it in London. I've considered how to present urban/city/street work and never felt comfortable with a purist white wall gallery experience. In fact my first effort back in the late 80s was at a former synagogue in Spitalfields where I photocopied and pasted my pictures across sheets of re-purposed corrugated iron in the basement. A reasonable DIY first attempt at an installation but writing this now has really made me think of what more I could (still?) do.
I wasn't aware, ignorantly, again, of K a subsequent project by Doyle inspired by the death of his mother Kathryn. It's in a way figurative but certainly of the landscape as well. The result is an imaginative contemplation of a woman's life. Something personal but co-created with two friends as a multi-sensory piece of work.
So all in all a timely - as always - intervention of art and life. I wonder if photography for me is less about making sense of the world around me and more about making sense of myself. 

Or does everyone think that.

Do you?


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