While conversations about photography are becoming more international, it is nevertheless a useful exercise to pay attention to how the photographic image is conceived and considered at a local level. From the team behind PhotoIreland, the annual festival taking place in Dublin throughout the month of July, comes just the thing.
As its title suggests, New Irish Works channels emerging voices gaining a level of prominence in Ireland and beyond, who, in the words of editor and festival director Angel Luis González Fernández, “demonstrate an evident critical awareness of the medium, often questioning and engaging with its own limitations. While some practices are navigating around open-ended narratives, and ambiguity, others show a clear desire to both subscribe to and challenge a traditional documentary practice.”
Paul Gaffney provides the cover image from his unassuming but quietly seductive series of landscape photographs, We Make the Path by Walking. Other stand-out works include Cáit Fahey’s series Bored Games, which enlivens everyday objects such as a light fixture or milk being poured into a glass with an odd mixture of disinterest, criticality and banality – not to mention hard flash.
Elsewhere, Ethna O’Regan’s images make light work of happenstance scenarios, those moments that are only half-registered or not at all, yet for the prepared photographer appear as if they have been staged for the camera, ready to be fixed and transformed into metaphor. Beguiling cloud formations, aeroplanes flying perilously close to the tops of houses, public memorials shrouded by drapes, and discarded magazines strewn across a road are all captured here.
Things get curioser and curioser when we encounter the photography of Caroline McNally. Her project, Earth is Room Enough, comprises digitally doctored views of landfill sites in which the colours are altered to create scenes of a post-apocalyptic world. Also featured is Dorje de Burgh’s Nothing Lasts Forever, a solemn piece of work that cleverly combines images of interiors, brooding portraits and fragments of vistas to present a compelling grasp of photography’s ability to absorb, obscure and, ultimately, create a sense of unreality.
New Irish Works is no ‘best of’ publication, but what is at stake here are new perspectives on contemporary Irish photography, ranging from the documentary to the conceptual, the concrete to the speculative – and the world-aware to the local.
New Irish Works is published by PhotoIreland. For more information or to order a copy visit photoireland.org