It had been almost 14 years since I last stayed in London. Well not strictly true I had spent a few nights in London since then but part of a medivac journey doesnt really count
London is one of those places I love to visit but would hate to live there. 16 years ago I spent about 4 months working in the west end of London. It involved working there 5 days a week and returning home to weekends which really meant getting in late on a Friday night, doing the washing and drying clothes on the Saturday and then packing for a Sunday night flight to be at my desk for 9am on the Monday. Not much of a life really and sounded a lot more glamourous than it actually was. After a month or so I tried to work 12 hour days monday to weds so I could get home earlier and when the offer of a permanent job came, I was never so glad to turn a job down in my life. Yes I spent time in some great hotels and got the opportunity to eat in some great restaurants but after a while all you want to do is go back to your hotel room and get room service and watch tv.
So I spent some time away from London but would always get over sometime during December, if for nothing else than to take a wander round Harrods and splash out a little.
Id organised this trip to go over and do some quick coffee meetings with some of my London clients. Its odd but I worked for a client in London for over 4 years and it was a good relationship with the client but we never met once in that period and I realised that this was the norm with my current clients so thought Id make an effort to press the flesh. I know I was probably asking too much to get the chance to go round and do some stock photos as it would be totally weather dependent and booked a month in advance it was pretty much a see how it is when you get there trip. If all else failed I’d go to a few exhibitions and I might even do some tourist stuff.
The way the flights worked out Id arrive after dark in London and had pretty much the first evening to myself. The question was then do I take in a show, go for a wander, go to the cinema, veg out in the hotel or… …well to cut a long story short I ended up at Chelsea for a champions league game. A great chance to get some quick street food which looking back on it I wish I’d missed. Not long after returning from Hong Kong where the street food there had sort of spoiled me So when I couldnt decide if the bap had more bread than the sausage I knew Id made the wrong choice!
Still the game was a good result for Chelsea and when the great Fernando Torres was introduced at 80 odd minutes it was time for me to leave and get a quick train home. Turned out to be a great move on my part, with delays, breakdowns and so on it took over an hour to get across London. How on earth are they going to hold the Olympics?
When I worked in London one of my bosses was one of those typical London bosses, when he invites you out for Lunch, it is of the liquid variety. I learned this to my cost one Friday afternoon when I went out with him and a load of the senior managers. After 4 pints I couldnt remember what my name was but I do remember the whole pub laughing when I kept saying ‘no seriously lads, what are we having to eat’. I have no idea how I ended up back in Belfast that evening. The guys had always said that if I was ever in London looking a pint at 6am that I should get myself down to Smithfield Market. Under the market theres a pub called the cock and as long as you order breakfast you can get drink as well. Now as a light drinker the pint didnt really interest me but rather the opportunity to get a fryup that would choke a horse and be made up of every meat under the sun. I waited 14 years for that fry and can I say it was worth the wait. I would thoroughly recommend it and get yourself down to the Smithfield Meat Market (London City Markets) if you ever get a chance. If you are a social networking afficionado (I occasionally use twitter and use facebook for family and friends) then please dont send a message to everyone you know saying that you are enjoying a breakfast at the cock. Innocent enough until some so called friends leave the ‘breakfast at’ part out of their requoting. Sigh!
Seeing as it was such a ridiculous time in the am and the sun was just coming up I headed down over the river for some early morning city views. Going past St Pauls I got a first glimpse of the Occupy London protest and the ‘ring of steel’ around the London Stock Exchange. Lets be honest I remember some of the rings of steel thrown up here in Northern Ireland,so a few crash barriers and fat lads in dayglo jackets doesnt constitute a ring of steel London.
I do have to say it was an absolutely beautiful morning and whilst cold was probably one of the best Ive ever seen there. I would have mostly stayed there in the summer when at times the heat is oppressive, I remember coming out of an air conditioned office one day for lunch only to stay in the revolving door and go and get crisps and cola from the vending machine.
I spent most of the morning wandering in and around the City hoping to set upon some bankers and give them what for but they must have all been sitting in their office, banking, or something like that.
I had a fair idea of the types of photos I wanted so took a wander up around Westminster and in and around Whitehall. It was a good opportunity to try out some of the travel technology Id first tried at my path to enlightenment in Hong Kong. I had downloaded a london transport app, a tube map, walking and guided tour apps and was using google maps to navigate. Despite having an engineering degree and a masters in electronics this felt very weird. Id always travelled everywhere with a map and found it strange to be standing in Trafalgar Square and then finding the nearest highest ranked pub lunch within 100 yards. Sure enough my facebook and tripadvisor friends didnt let me down and I ended up in the excellent porter house just off covent garden. Of course only after Id sat down and ordered did I realise it was an Irish pub and just across the street from Rules where Id unsuccessfully tried to book a lunch.
I then made almost a fatal mistake, I decided to go for wander up round Regent Street and then Oxford Street in late evening a couple of weeks before Christmas. Only the previous weekend the police had closed Oxford Street because there were just too many people in it for safety.
Im sure it was nowhere near that now but John Lewis is an odd place to sit and have your dinner, like a bad comedy sketch Id tried to get in somewhere to sit down and made the mistake of trying to navigate through shops when I found myself outside the John Lewis Cafe. With the glories of trip planners, sat nav, tube maps I worked out that it would be a hundred yard dash to Regent Street tube station and then only one change to my hotel.
Ok so I’ll admit it Im chicken and I bottled out and went back to the hotel to watch the football on tv. Theres only so many shopping crowds you can brave before it takes its toll and if its this bad now, whats it going to be like come the 2012 Olympics?
Well it has been over a month since I got home and well over a month since my last blog post. When I wrote the last blog post I was still sitting in Canada, pretty much packing up and ready to get the flight home. Did I say ready? Well prepared to get the flight home is more appropriate.
Its hard to believe its been a month already, just as it was hard to beleive a month traveling had gone by. In the last few weeks Ive been catching up with my other photo work, getting back in touch with students, starting to wade through the thousands of images to be edited, captioned and uploaded to various sites and sitting watching the rain bounce off the windows.
Its been a tough couple of weeks, not just from the work perspective and the fitting it all in whilst trying to get a house and everything back to normal. The boring mundane ordering of heating oil and cutting the grass dont quite compare to flying over nigara falls in the helicopter but they have to be done.
Its also been a wrench leaving my friends, its not that I dont have good friends here but there is something about traveling together that bonds people. I have 3 close friends that I have traveled the world with and I remember the first day they met, it was down in dublin airport and none of them had met before. I had traveled with them all individually but not as a group so hadnt even considered the dynamics. Our first task as a unit was to report all our luggage missing on arrival so it was a baptism of fire. There is something about the bonds of friendship made whilst traveling that go beyond normal friendship and I have that in abundance now with my friends here, in Canada and in South America.
People have asked what the highlight of the trip was, of course there are loads of things I could mention and already have in the blog but like my trip to South America there is one thing that stands out for me, the people I travelled with and the people I met. Whilst I didnt quite need emergency room treatment as in Buenos Aires, I was treated like a friends by strangers and welcomed into the family by people who didnt need to do that.
Oh but here, did I mention we got buzzed by a crop duster in North Dakota?
With the recent events in London and indeed Belfast it is sometimes easy to draw the conclusion that the world is going to hell and in a bloody quick manner but when someone in nowheresville Iowa comes over to your table and asks how you are and what you are doing there and recommends the platter then its not that bad. When you are invited to a family barbecue even though you arent part of the family but feel like it by the end of the evening then it shows there are more good people than bad in the world.
But Im not knocking the sales of water cannon photos or soldiers on the streets.
It was my first trip to Canada and definitely wont be the last, I felt at home there, I felt as though it was the same as here only different. Ive been so taken with the place I spent the first couple of weeks looking at visa regulations and work permits and the like. There is a danger that the grass is always greener and boy if I complain about the winters here then…
…well you get the point.
I have always been a traveler, even when I didnt know it, its not really about the start or the end or even the bit in the middle, its about the journey as a whole, its not so much about what you see but how it affects you and what you do about it afterwards. Its about meeting people and seeing that we are pretty much the same the world over, we want to be fed and a roof over our head and if we can all have a laugh in the process, so much the better. The world financial system can go down the toilet but as long as you can put food on the table, thats pretty much all that should matter.
I am back to earth with a bump here but it is home and always will be home, I missed the soft grass and the soft rain (ok Ive had enough of that already) and sitting out on the lough fishing as the sun goes down is now an experience having met someone who has never seen the sea. Not to mention the freshly caught mackerel barbequed with friends.
Im waxing lyrical about the trip and the place but I’ll bring it back to the people, it would not have been half as much fun without the old and new friends on the trip and I think if we’d sat in the house for a month it would have been equally as enjoyable.
Just saying thank you isnt really enough, I am a wee boy from the Falls Road in Belfast, I should never have seen the things Ive seen (good and bad) and would never have imagined Id have been to the places I only ever read about or saw on a wee small black and white portable tv as a kid. That means its all an experience, its all good (even the bad bits).
Life is not a rehearsal so even if its just lying on the grass, sitting out in the rain, go and do something you havent done before, say yes to something you would normally say no to and see what happens along the way.
So thanks to everyone I met in the US/Canada, its been emotional Its also been great craic and would I do it again – 4 weeks ago I’d probably have said no, now I’ll say maybe, in 4 weeks time I’ll probably have a bag packed.
After Ive got the rest of the photos edited of course…. ..better get back to work and pull a few all nighters!
That is all! Well not quite – would be the shortest blog post ever.
Its taken quite a while to get the archive up to the site and I’ve also included some of my old Getty editorial photo sets for info purposes – I’ll finish off uploading the older sets over the next couple of days.
The most of the Ireland archive is now online and Ive made the conscious decision not to upload some photos and come counties as I’d like more complete coverage before making them go live so the plan for the rest of the ‘summer’ is to get a lot more coverage up of places and spread out into people and festivals. Oh and local food as well
I just have to go back through all the old blog posts and update the posts with the links to the new site. The smugmug version will be turned off in a fortnight.
So have a play with the new site, register online and let me know what you think. The main function at the minute is an online search with the ability to supply clients lightboxes of images I think they are interested in, as well as highlighting current image sets.
I’ll announce and describe the image sets here on the blog.
The website currently contains an archive of over 16k images and is in the process of google indexing every one of them so might be a bit slow whilst all that is getting done.
Normal lengthy blog service will soon be resumed!
Its been a while since my last blog but in my defence Ive been busy and its been a bit of a career landmark.
In my previous life I was a software engineer and I studied at Queens University Belfast for four years, first doing a BEng (batchelor of engineering) degree and then an MSc (Master of Science) degree.
My first job was in a local software company and I then went on to work in 2 more software companies before a change in circumstances brought about a change in Career after 9 years as an Engineer. In 2001 I took my first photography job working for a local photographer before going it alone a year or so later.
So in late September 2010 I am now a photographer longer than I ever was a Software Engineer yet I have just completed part of a commission for companies involved in Software Engineering. Not quite poacher turned gamekeeper and yet not quite a busmans holiday either. It was good to catch up with old colleagues and catch up quickly, far too quickly, with the old profession and its current issues.
Deep down Im still an engineer, I’ve always been an engineer which is a strange thing to say in this profession, but Ive always had an artistic side as well. That was never able to manifest itself fully in my previous career yet the era of digital photography, website generation, online marketing, email, ftp, image editing and distribution and all those good things keep the engineer in me happy.
Ive always been a problem solver and one of my first jobs in software was in a team tasked with ‘firefighting’ the ‘hot issues’ of the day. Now I dont miss the management speak, particularly as since then I’ve taken photos of real firefighters and whilst Im not wishing to denigrate my previous profession, the words used are incongruous with the job.
Through my later jobs I got involved in recruitment, customer bids and processes, corporate training, writing specifications, interpreting client briefs, investigating client issues and dealing with clients across the globe. I cant really say my job as a photographer is any different to that with all those skills being very portable indeed and just applied to different areas.
Perhaps thats why I have grown and progressed the business, because I brought those skills with me and adapted them. Maybe its just coincidence but either way it didnt do me any harm.
The access all areas press, red carpet and general swanning around with the gorgeous people isnt really the image you think of sitting outside a hotel in dublin in the snow at 1am as you try to wire your photos into an office on the west coast of the states.
Bit like my last couple of software jobs were we had US offices and you were on call until 2am in case any problems arose. Of course in one job we also had offices in the Phillipines and Australia. What do you mean you arent available 24/7? No different to now when people from all across the globe who are on deadlines and who want photos asap dont really care what timezone you are in. ‘Im just ringing to see if you are in?’ ‘yes its 4am, where else would I be’. ‘Can you email me this photo?’, ‘Yes, as soon as I get my eyes open I’ll be on to it – oh and you will need to pay in advance by paypal’. Sounds very glamourous indeed
When I tell people what I do, particularly those in IT professions they say they long for a job where they arent sitting in front of a computer all day and dont have to pull all nighters. Wishing away the long winter nights sitting at 2am trying to find a pizza place open in Belfast…
Well sorry folks I have news for you, I was up at 8am and its 12am now and Im still at the computer, writing a blog no less During that time I had to run to the doctors as I did ankle ligaments in at the weekend. Sorry, no sick leave or sick pay here its put up or shut up.
One of the biggest wrenches for me was the leaving a very well paid, stable job with holidays, and sick pay and healthcare and overtime and… …and then I remember being paid to take photos of naked women on a beach in Tenerife mid January…. …money isnt everything.
I love my job and I hope that shows. I loved being an engineer, I just didnt particularly enjoy the environment but looking back on it I had had my time and it was time for something different. Im now at the same stage in my photography career but I dont have the same urges. Maybe its got to do with reinvention and changing business approach every few years.
Some photographers try to blame the GWC idea – guy with camera. It appears that anyone with a camera can call themselves a professional photographer, couple of hundred quid on a camera, 6 quid for printable business cards and 30 quid for a cheap website and away you go, you are doing weddings but I remember people who had a home computer calling themselves computer programmers and asking if I could sort them out with a job. No different and that doesnt give any credit to clients who should be able to look at a photographers website, look at the images, the craft in the photos and the message behind the photography to differentiate between the chancers and the people who will build a relationship.
I learned that in my IT days when dealing with clients, it was about building relationships, getting a bond of mutual trust instead of trying to sell them something. Yes you are still selling but you are selling them something that will benefit them, which in turn will benefit you, everyones happy. I try to do that with the photography and that has been borne out by the number of long term clients I have and equally the long term relationship they have with me. They know they can ring me at 11pm and that I will take their calls because its probably important, important to them, their business and ultimately their families and lifestyle. You do go the extra mile for people you have a relationship with and its that closer bond I like with being self employed rather than working for a large corporation. Of course I could have got that within the IT industry by setting up myself there, but then again Ive seen people in tears holding their daughters wedding photos or getting their baby to smile on camera or a public relations person ringing me to thank me for getting their company in the paper with a good photo. No-one ever congratulated me on a line of C code, or a good subroutine in COBOL or sorting out a java error.
I started radharcimages because it interested me, right at the start of a recession when the market for the type of photos I was producing for it had started drying up, so its on hold, not cancelled. It will be resurrected occasionally although if climate change has its way all the pictures will have to be retaken to reflect our monsoon seasons.
Ive no idea what the next 9 weeks will bring never mind the next 9 years. In 9 years time if Im still here I’ll be approaching 50 and who knows I might have bought myself a pair of braces, grown a big belly and taken up wedding photography full time. Maybe I’ll actually buy a euro millions rollover ticket next week, win it and then head off round the world in a very big boat.
It really is up to me, its about trying to predict the future, I will live or die by my own decisions and I have no-one to blame but myself. Perhaps thats the key, thats the reason why Im still up writing a blog at 12am, or maybe Im just nuts.
Either way its going to be interesting…
…and isnt that what its all about.
No-one living in Belfast can fail to recognise that the city is built around the river. The city is built on the river and even in the river. The vast majority of the city centre is built on about 50 metres deep of mud flat sludge over the sandstone bedrock. Like all old major cities it grew up around the river and the river has been its lifeblood and so Belfast Lough is the approach to the city that many a visitor, immigrant, emigrant has seen. Perhaps its most famous product the Titanic was born on the river and there are markers still to this day in the Lough used to judge its speed.
In my lifetime Ive never been low down for any length of time in the lough, the ferries to Liverpool, Scotland and the Isle of Man usually have great height and so you have a distinct birds eye view of what is going on. Similarly for the approaches to the harbour airport, its all below you.
Mooring my boat in Carrickfergus and doing some initial exploration of the lough from the water has given a different view of the approaches and with a little imagination gives an idea of what it was like for early settlers and invaders arriving, both early and late.
The limit of The Port of Belfast is the fairway channel marker buoy. Beyond this point you are under the control of Belfast Harbour and navigation is controlled and not a place for me to wander at random. Entrance to the Harbour itself is tightly controlled and photography restricted so no view there folks.
The marker buoy sits on an imaginary line between Grey Point and Carrickfergus Castle, two historic locations which guard the entrance to the approaches to Belfast.
Many people know Carrickfergus Castle, built by the Norman John De Courcy in 1177 it has dominated the entrance to Belfast for over 800 years. It has been attached, besieged by many nations and used as a military outpost right up to World War Two. Normally visitors have a view like this, the view of the castle from the harbour..
However any attacker seeing this view, probably first had to see this view…
Coming up the lough in small boats, when the mist clears the cannonballs start raining down on you, getting to the harbour area is some achievement. Leaving the outer harbour walls aside and the buildings behind, this view has changed little in that 800 years. 700 odd years ago as you rowed up the lough, armour at the ready then this looms out of the mist you have to wonder who’s bright idea was this? Probably not one of the people doing the rowing around you.
At the opposite side of the lough is Grey Point and this has a more modern defensive outpost in Grey Point Fort. The fort was built between 1904 and 1907 and housed naval guns for naval defence of the lough. The original searchlight positions are still on the shoreline and even the white markings are still visible on the rocks of nearby shorelines which gave distance markings to the gunners. The current guns are a recent installment, bought from a similar battery in Cork after the grey point guns were sold for scrap in the 50s. It doesnt say anywhere in the history if this sale involved a metal merchant transaction or they were loaded onto the back of a big lorry.
Grey Point Fort never saw any true action during either war, well not strictly true, shortly after war was declared the over eager gunners fired a shot across the bows of a merchant ship who was yet unaware that war had been declared. Hmmm.
Just up from Carrickfergus Castle is Kilroot Power station which is a giant of a building on its own. It can supply up to a third of the electricity in Northern Ireland. Its a dual coal and oil fired power station, both of which are supplied from deep water berths in the sea. The coal loading area is close to the station and the Cloghan Point oil jetty is over a kilometre long about 3km up the coast. Its a massive impressive structure, particularly when up close in a small boat. Although the fishing near it isnt bad at all!
Between the coal and oil terminals theres another small nondescript insignificant jetty. It belongs to the equally blandly named Irish Salt Mining and Exploration company. Deep below the surface is a massive salt mine which taps into the underground salt seam which streches under the atlantic, all the way to Russia. If you have driven on gritted snow bound roads in Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland and parts of the East coast of the USA then some or all of the salt probably came from this small jetty.
During the bad conditions last winter I tried to get access to the mine to photograph it as the UK was running out of Salt and the Kilroot Mine was working 24/7 to try and supply enough to keep the roads gritted. The road to the mine was just nose to tail with lorries taking the salt throughout Ireland. Now a very well known (and probably affluent) news agency had secured the rights to photos in the mine, so like the local tv stations I was stuck with taking photos of the road or looking around for old aerial stock photos. So heres the photo for next winter as viewed from the sea!
A little past the Cloghan point jetty is the town of whitehead and then the Blackhead lighthouse which is the point where the County Antrim Coastline leaves Belfast Lough and reaches the Irish Sea. As somebody scared of heights I went to the edge of the clifftop a few years ago for some photos and it looked like a long way down. From the sea the cliffs dont look half as scary, nor does the famous coastal path. Although I wouldnt like to be on either in anything more than a breeze.
Ok I’ve never been on a ferry across the Mersey (yet) but I have been on a ferry going up the Mersey. Not good enough I know.
On my way to Liverpool today for the weekend, so what has this got to do with Ireland?
Well I always feel a connection when I go to Liverpool, it was the first stopping off point for a lot of Irish migrants, many stayed there, many used it as the first stop on a long journey to other places in the world. Its a city that has a lot of parallels with Belfast, both formerly big with shipbuilding with a rich maritime background, both cities famous for working class humour and both cities have had tough and turbulent times. Belfast is coming to terms with the troubles as now part of its history and in Liverpool the last time I was over I went to the slavery museum.
Most of Liverpools beautiful waterfront buildings were built with money generated from the slave trade, its not alone in this, I seem to recall when Obama was elected how the White House in Washington had been built by slaves.
Theres an inherent sadness in cities like Liverpool, troubled peoples, troubled times have left their mark but the cities carry on and are full of life and humour. Like Belfast Liverpool has some of the finest new waterfront developments only a few miles from some of the worst troubled areas in Western Europe.
Of course unlike Belfast, Liverpool is home to one of the greatest football clubs in the World, as well as Tranmere and Everton. Ive supported Liverpool since I was a boy, probably a mixture of the all red strip and they were top of the league when I was a kid. But lets not linger on their current fortunes for too long
Im not a big drinker but one of the worst nights in my life on the drink was in Liverpool, Its a very long story, very long story indeed but the night ended/morning started with me being woken up in a hotel room with all the lights on, the bathroom tap running, the tv on, the radio on, all the bedclothes on the floor and me lying on the bed wearing nothing but a facecloth. It wasnt my alarm that woke me but rather the sound of the maid leaving the room. Unlike my travelling companion, the sense of shame was overwhelmed by the sense of hunger and I braved all the dirty looks to have breakfast in the silver service dining room. I wondered why my mate was so keen to just use the key drop box rather than face the hotel staff as he had only been woken in a similar state by the maid finding him rolled up in the floor in a pile of bedclothes. It wasnt until she started vacuuming around the pile of clothes on the floor that she realised there was a person in there.
Still, Ive never touched southern comfort since and even now the smell of it makes me wretch. So let that be a lesson to you boys and girls.
None of that on this trip as Im doing the pre christmas visit to my brother, sister and nephews, just part of being an irish family, it seems a lot of us have families scattered around the globe, something I’ll touch on in later blogs. Im not able to get over over Christmas so its a mini christmas and mini birthday weekend rolled into one (did I mention its my birthday next week).
Right back to Liverpool, during the summer I did a series of various photos in and around Liverpool, for one of the days I had a local guide show me round some of the more interesting or quirky or off the tourist trail spots. One of the more interesting stories was this photo below.
Its somewhere the guide told me the story about, its a pyramid grave which is in danger of being knocked down and either relocated or the body in it being buried which there is a minor uproar about due to the story associated with it.
Its the tomb of a guy called Mackenzie . He was a gambler who is said to have lost his soul to the devil in a game of cards. The agreement was the devil would take his soul when he was put in the ground so MacKenzie was placed in the pyramid tomb above ground sitting on a chair holding a winning hand of cards. So the devil has never got a hold of his soul, but if he is reburied then the game is over.
Now the photo itself is probably never a seller but it is an interesting story and sets the backdrop for the demolition or restoration of the nearby church which is the centre of the controversy. Something I’d never have come across without a local guide.
OK Id better get packing, photos of Liverpool below.
So the first post on the Radharc Images site blog so I’d better explain how and why I’ve reached this point.
The beginnings of my agency work go back to events after a riot in Belfast in July 2005. Up until this particular evening I had always self marketed my photos, digital photography and delivery was still growing so there were mechanisms for individuals to send images to publications and get published with enough frequency to earn a living from it.
It was my first real big job back after spending a year out after suffering an infection in my leg injury which caused a 2 month spell in hospital and a year learning to walk again. I’d missed a lot in that time.
What I’d missed was the increase in agency work and the faster turnaround time for images. During the riot I watched a couple of colleagues sit down and get the laptop out and wire the pictures in. Most of the rest of us were still taking photos and didnt want to be burdened down with the heavy laptops of the time particularly in a riot situation.
I got home, edited and sent out my pictures and got a lot of ‘sorry we’ve already had a set in from x agency’ from people I already knew.
Time to start making those phone calls and sending out emails. I sent my portfolio out to a contact I had in London and after a few phone calls and emails had a telephone interview with a US agency with a London base (Wireimage). They sent me out on an initial test job and the rest is history. 2 years later Wireimage were taken over by Gettyimages and it looked like this was a good move. 2 years after that contract issues with Getty and the decreasing editorial market and increased use of account subscriptions made it virtually impossible to earn a living from certain jobs here in Ireland. It was time to re-evaluate what I was doing.
In the interim 4 years things had almost gone full circle, the opportunities for photographers to self market on the web has almost reached the point it was at 5 years ago where a phone call with ‘photos on their way in’ was enough. Now I dont think they even have switchboards.
So the idea of starting an agency with like minded individuals was formed but in the myriad of websites and photo sites out there what was the USP? (unique selling point)
Back I went to an evening after the IFTA film and television awards in Dublin in 2008. It was a late finish so I thought I’d head across country to stay with friends in Galway rather than head home to Belfast. Now this does sound stupid as Belfast is closer than Galway but ignore the logic. I left the press room starving (as usual I was wiring photos in whilst my colleagues scoffed all the free nosh) and thought I’d just stop off in a wee village somewhere on the road, get a burger, get a pee and take my time. Not having driven that road in years I didnt realise it was all straight motorway and dual carriageway. After about 2 hours I was busting and still hungry. Where was the old Ireland that we all cursed as it took 7 hours to drive anywhere but where you could get fed and watered at any time of the day or night.
Old Ireland is dissapearing fast and many things have changed beyond recognition in a very short space of time. This isnt good or bad, just different but I thought now in 2009 that some things should be documented before they disappear forever. Of course a lot has disappeared but things are continually cycling so it would be a lifetime project. Theres the USP, use my formal grammar school education, delve deep into the irish history, folklore, legends and geography and do my best to capture as much of it as possible. I originally thought it would be a 2 year project and I laugh now 10 months on having only really covered Northern Ireland in the depth I thought I’d do everything in the first year.
I’ve lived here for almost 40 years and in the last 10 months I’ve seen many places I’ve never seen in my life, despite being only 1/2 an hour up the road, so in a way its more of a series of pilgrimages than a project.
So do I only include photos of Ireland? Well yes initially but I was on a job in Spain a couple of years ago and produced a set of photos and one of the people reviewing them said ‘oh thats very Irish’. I didnt really get it, it was a spanish model, spanish site, everything about it to me said Spanish but it was explained a spanish photographer wouldnt have taken that shot. Interesting. I suppose one way of explaining it is to illustrate a recent trip to Cyprus, because I’m from Belfast we have an unnatural fascination with conflict and divided cities, so I spent an entire day going up and down the Green Line in Cyprus taking photos. They may never sell but talking to people either side of the border it was easy to emphasise with people and easy to see that people are the same all over the world and if left alone will generally get on together. So I think thats where the Irish Eye comes into it. Well thats what I tell people and if you believe that you will believe anything Of course it could just be me being greedy and wanting to add all the photos in, I’ll let you decide
So OK, Its basically all my stock photos with a heavy emphasis on Ireland and very tenuous links to places that you can travel to from Ireland, all I had to do was pick a name.
Names. Northern Ireland. Names. People have died in this country over names.
Do I include an Irish aspect and risk alienating half the population of Northern Ireland, do I risk alienating potential employers by using the Irish language? Do I play it safe and come up with some PC bland euphemism that noone gets?
Well sort of, halfway between the two.
I wanted something both Irish and British, something that means something yet nothing. So decided on a gaelic word and an english word. Photos is too bland, too ‘blah’. Images conjures up ideas of it being a whole thing rather than just a 2D photo of a whole thing. Images means more than just recording a scene without going into the whole idea of a word representing misty mountains and flame haired coleens running through the barley wearing aran jumpers because thats not Ireland, dont think it ever was except in the Quiet Man. So that was the english side sorted, what about Irish?
I wanted a word in Irish that had a hard translation into English, preferably one that didnt have a direct translation but had multiple meanings depending on how and when its used. Plus it had to be pronouncable in English even if it was mispronounced. Its not rad harc but depending on dialect (see we cant even agree) its ra arc or raa irk. It can mean sight or vision or view or scene but in its purest form means a way of seeing which can mean the actual act of seeing or the way something is interpreted. See I told you it mean little in english!
So thats it, job done, well thats the easy part, the hard part is doing all of the above justice, and taking the photos, captioning, uploading, displaying etc etc. Which leads me on to the blog. The blog will be more about the way of seeing than the actual photos, how I get to the point I take the photos and this is just the start of it….