Aishling Muller, the tutor for the photography course, said that finding a subject and taking photographs was an emotional journey. Check out Aishling at https://www.facebook.com/AishlingMueller. When I looked at the exhibition photographs, I saw precisely what she meant. The emotion might be joy or sorrow; nostalgia or hope; pride or power; fear or happiness; anger or humour. The diversity of the photographs are amazing and the work put into them is stunning.
I think each group of photographs tells a story and gives an insight into the person taking it. This is my interpretation of them. The emotions and thoughts I had when I saw them. Some raised questions and I was fortunate enough to talk to the artist and obtain an answer. Others raised questions that have no answer, and it’s not necessary to have one.
A lit candle symbolises birth, resurrection, hope. The collection has an esoteric quality, the spiritual combined with the natural world. It reaches into my gut and I feel something that I find difficult to put into words. Perhaps it’s a oneness with nature, or my place in the cycle of life and death, but also a sense of completion. The story here is the journey from the physical to the spiritual world.
The cemetery with its stirring burial monument tells of a life; a person who had hopes, dreams, ambitions, tragedy, joy. It reminds me of my genealogical research when, as I wrote previously in a brief memoir included in an earlier blog called ‘The Celebration of Life’,
“They were paper people whose names and stories were ink scratches. But they lifted themselves from the page and morphed into human being as their stories unfolded.”
Whether it was scratches on paper or marks on a headstone it commemorated the life of an ancestor. And as I continued my research I realised that the person I was following was one of the two people at that time who ultimately gave birth to me, whatever the period of history. Two of my ancestors witnessed Shakespeare, or the Armada, or the Battle of Waterloo. And this group of photographs tell of an ancestor, just one of the two people at that time in history who ultimately gave birth to the photographer, resting in a beautiful and familiar place.
The series called Hungry Gap celebrates life; the growing of vegetables singles out the life force and the beauty of food; it’s a thanksgiving because without it the photographer wouldn’t exist. These remind me again of my connection to the earth through food and through the feel of the soil in my hands. It demonstrates the power I have to feed my family to ensure their health and their growth courtesy of the earth around me.
This collection by Mary Brown had me thinking about the wonder of nature – from animal to flowers to flame. This series is about life. Even the burning pile has a beauty set in the rich green landscape with the blues and purples of the sky. Fire has often been called a ‘living’ thing as it eats its way through everything and needing oxygen to survive. Although the pile is man made the fire is elemental and has a power of its own. A great contrast to the gentleness of the flowers.
This collection by Brigid Heery are images of a working environment. A combination of organic and inorganic; the cow and the machine with a helping hand from man. And the end result. For pouring and drinking on its own, for putting into drinks, for making butter and cream and cheese. The cow’s sacrifice helps our children grow straight and strong, instrumental in inhibiting rickets and the resulting deformities. The photos also remind me that this is a rural farming community and that the farmers have a rough road to tread.
Portraits by Vickie Branigan celebrate the human condition. The joys and tragedies of life are written on the faces of everyone. The smiles and grins say ‘I’m human, I live, I have my memories and experiences, and I’m still smiling’. Why would anyone want to destroy that with botox and facelifts? Behind that skin and those eyes and that skull are thousands of stories. It reminds me of Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer, the rogue replicant in Blade Runner). The camera focuses on him in his final moments and he says ‘I’ve seen things that you people would never believe … all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain’.
Rista Lehtoranta captured the bloom and colour of these flowers. The close ups show me the miracle of nature with the gradations of colour; the folds and twists of the furls; the beauty and delicacy of the reproductive centre of the flower that attracts bees. The centre where the sperm in the pollen joins the ovules and fertilisation begins. Another celebration of life.
Carmel Gilsenan makes no bones about her feelings for the man-made structures called ‘potholes’. It’s something we’re familiar with and I’m sure it arouses a response in you as it does in me. I laughed and I growled. But those potholes are in a man made structure, a road that changes the landscape. There’s no forgetting, though, that when man is gone, it will revert to its natural state.
Jack O’Sullivan’s close ups show nature warts and all. By looking at the detail he has given me a view that I don’t always see or even look for. The green leaves are furled and veined. Parts are thin enough to let light in and there are holes where something has eaten through it. The other one is similar with thin threads of root strung through it. A subtle look at life and the passage of time.
Dalia’s series ‘Reflections’ evoke wonder in me. As with the first series I started with these too have spirituality. Images: firm and flowing; real and fluid. It reminds me about the balance in life. Not just between good and evil but the need for light and dark, the need for substance and imagination, the need for joy and sorrow. Is that the true colour of the sky reflected in the water showing details of a tree so distant the details can’t be seen? Is the smoky upright human image the ephemeral reflection of the man or a mirage?
It was an excellent exhibition and I believe it’s still on at Ballinacree.
The artists are: Padraig McNally, Mary Walker, Brigid Heery, Rita Briody, Jack O’Sullivan, Brendan Smith, Vicki Brannigan, Mary Brown, Dalia Smeltoruite, Carmel Gilsenan, Rista Lehtoranta. I’m hoping that I haven’t omitted anyone but if I have, please accept my apologies in advance. Let me know and I will correct any errors. The artist is free to rant and rail against my views and leave a comment. After all, it’s their work, their emotions, their experience and they’ve opened themselves up by exhibiting them. I admire all of them and appreciate their efforts.
My thanks to all the artists and the tutor for their passion.