Fintan O’Toole writes today in the Irish Times “Contemporary
photography has revived this melancholia” I wonder if we are set to
create a despondent photography culture with all these projects on the
gloom and decay in Ireland today.
example Anthony Haughey’s Ghost Estates project concentrates on the
‘concrete in the landscape’ and reinforces the idea that the recession
has been a disaster in property and economic terms only. The recession
has been more than just about the failure of private property but of
real human suffering, “A living misery’ as Fintan O’Toole says in the
article.The absence of people suggests that they are separate to the
housing issues, or not important at all. We have to move on from this
focus on the material and the real and not forget to capture the spirit,
the indefinable, the joy, the innocence, lyrical beauty, dreams, light
and life. There are other photographers who are doing projects on similar subject matter but some actually capture a transient spirit, ambience and psychological feeling where this project does not approach that feeling for me at all. Photographers love to concentrate on “reality” on the
sociological aspects of war, moments of history or the idea of
photographer as ‘reporter.' They use the absence, the silence, the death
mask, the time frozen aspects of the medium as these photographers seem
to think that photography is best at showing absence rather than
presence. The Russian film maker Tarkovosky wrote “Wherever it
expresses-even destruction and ruin-the artistic image is by definition
an embodiment of hope it is inspired by faith. Artistic creation is by
definition a denial of death.” I am aware of the concrete realities of
empty estates, despair and death but life goes on and life is everywhere
and photography should be about wonder and discovery, finding the joy
to care and live in the everyday.
I was recently sent to spent three days photographing the Slovenian philosopher, writer and social activist Slavoj Zizek. Slavoj , the man the New Yorker called “An academic rock star” and the chronicle of higher education called The Elvis of cultural Theory!
I was introduced and he seemed occupied with a conversation that jumped from film Theory to politics to what was happening in China and America . He was here to film The Pervert's Guide to Ideology, a follow up to his last film, The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, that uses Zizek's theoretical matrix to explore what psychoanalysis and film can tell us about our beliefs.
I waited and waited and listened to random lectures on Marx, Stalin and Freud plus thoughts on the church, child rearing, Kant , Hegel and bad art films.
The first day I tried to do a sitting down portrait but it was nothing great. I noticed how lots of people who are at ease with the movie and TV camera are frightened to death by the still camera. Most of us are the same when someone pulls out a still camera out and wants to take our image.
Each day I made a bit more progress, chats at the coffee machine helped and the fact that he engaged each person he spoke to with a rigid attention, talking with a directness and non stop. My patience paid off when he appeared with a cool t -shirt of Marx and Freud for the photo shoot.
I photographed him on the set of Taxi Driver and Full Metal Jacket and The Sound of Music. I photographed him as Stalin and as a priest but the photos that I lit with flash and added a hospital green hue and shadow, worked best. Slavoj was warm and funny and very engaging if a little hyper, so he did not sit still for long. He claimed not to care for still photos especially his early childhood ones.
He had a real interest in Irish affairs and understood the history of the Irish Media, he spoke of DeValera , Yeats, Wilde, Joyce, Beckett he said, was a true hero. From global locations to Irish studio interiors, The Pervert's Guide to Ideology will examine the prevailing ideologies at work in our world and no more engaging man to do it.
Since then I noticed Slavoj Zizek was at the centre of the recent Wall Street protests in New York.
Like Elvis, he never stops gyrating.
To be able to Judge and feel the character of light
A systematic approach to lighting a subject well
Challenge the use of conventional lighting shaping
tools such as umbrellas and soft boxes
Learn to make educated judgements about how to light
Broaden lighting references and influences
Pick up new technical info and ideas
I am always drawn to notebooks for some bizarre reason
Everywhere I go there are notebooks in garden shops, bookstores, airports, paper shops, discount stores, art suppliers, cool stores like Muji , uncool ones like Easons and even TK Max have them. I keep a small one A6 muji in my pocket every day, its like my passport and in it I am reminded of what's important, things i value and little notes about projects on my mind for future.
Its illustrated by pictures that reinforce stuff , like what is achievement for me at this time? Two pages on mastery, two on growth and so on.These are themes i will be writing about in future blog posts.
I have a pile of moleskins ,that i have been using for the past 10 years,stacked up and full up with ideas and thoughts,telephone numbers and so on on a shelf to my left.
I always keep a A4 notebooks one lined and one with blank pages in my bag.
I buy boxes of black sharpies and sometimes i find that ideas can only be brought to life by drawing and sometimes on the lined notebook pages by list.I love blank pages.
Please let me know if I am alone on this one...
I keep an occasional diary as well. I have been random posts in a lovely leather diary I bought in Tuscany in 2002 ! Over the past 11 years I noticed how i have moved from writing exclusively about work (i was obsessed with photography and work achievements) to more about life and how i think and feel.
I keep A3 black journals for my art work as visual journals.
My friends at AAD designed their own book of lists, of course I have two, I filled one in just over two months.
Make Lists Not War
February 4th, 2011
Our New Years Present is a little late. We originally came up with the idea for the list book in 2008! After putting it off that year and then completely redesigning it last year we finally decided to make it this year. It was meant to be on clients and friends desks at the start of January but due to some custom foil problems it’s only being finished now. Hopefully when it finally goes out it’ll have been worth the wait.
Earlier this year I was asked by An Post to photograph five items to celebrate Irish Craft for the 2011 year of craft.This was my second time to have my photographs feature on an Irish Stamps collection. Photography for stamps brings its own problems mostly about how to make an image work thats is going to be as small as a stamp.The choice of object is so important, lighting for texture, keeping a consistent sense of style and preserving the detail in different kinds of materials.
By photographing them in the studio we had plenty of time to get these details right.
This set of stamps feature five outstanding contemporary craft makers. Deirdre McLoughlin, from Dublin, uses ceramics in her work, while Róisín de Buitléar, also from Dublin, works with glass. Inga Reed makes jewellery in Co Kilkenny and Dr Helen McAllister works with embroidered textiles in Dublin. The fifth craft worker is Liam Flynn, from Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, an outstanding wood turner.
More: Contemporary Irish Craft
Irish craftspeople today produce innovative, contemporary work using traditional, sometimes ancient skills. Craft covers everything from woodturning and basket making to blacksmithing and stained glass making. It is estimated that almost 5000 people are employed in craft, making the sector a significant contributor to the Irish economy.
In recent years Ireland has achieved a reputation as a world-class source of contemporary fine craft. Irish craft makers have participated at international shows such as the biennial LOOT, held at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, SOFA (Sculpture Objects & Functional Art) in Chicago and more recently Collect in London, putting contemporary Irish craft on the international stage. Background on Craft Makers Glass - Roisin de Buitléar Dublin’s Róisín de Buitléar draws inspiration from her cultural heritage in her blown and cast glass creations that she’s been making for almost 30 years. Her work can be seen in public and private buildings throughout Ireland.
Wood - Liam Flynn Liam Flynn has been making wood vessels in his studio at Abbeyfeale, County
Limerick, for the past 25 years. Flynn was the winner of the inaugural Crafts Council of Ireland Irish Craft Bursary in 2005. His work is featured in numerous private and public collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; the Woodturning Centre, Philadelphia and the Department of Foreign Affairs Collection, Dublin.
Metal - Inga Reed
Inga Reed has been making jewellery since the late 1970s, recently in County Kilkenny, where she makes her distinctive pieces in her rural studio. She uses classic goldsmithing techniques, combining precious metals and precious and semi-precious stones. It is the intricate organic engineering that underpins the structure of collected items like seed pods and leaves and the patterns and textures they create. Her work is featured in many private and public collections including the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin. Textiles – Dr Helen McAllisterDesigner Helen McAllister has an MA in embroidered textiles and is head of fashion and design at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. She was the winner of the inaugural Golden Fleece award in 2002. Her work has moved from 2D image based hangings to 3D form making.
Ceramics - Deirdre McLoughlin The work of philosophy and history graduate Deirdre McLoughlin shapes space. It has been described as biomorphic, abstract and sculptural. She was awarded the Westerwaldpreis, outstanding ceramic art and craft work in the framework of a competition, in 2004 and showed at the 4th World Ceramic Bienalle in Korea in 2004.
The Year of Craft
Year of Craft is being celebrated through a diverse range of dynamic events to showcase the very best of craft made on the island of Ireland. The programme of events includes everything from exhibitions and open studios to lectures and workshops for craft enthusiasts of all ages.
Stamp photography Mike O'Toole
Mike O’Toole has shown his work at The Art directors club of New york and in exhibitions in London,Barcelona and Paris. He lectures part time on the BA(Hons)in photography at IADT and Graduated with an MA in photographic studies from The University of Westminister.He also holds a Diploma in personal life coaching.His work has been commissioned by Conde Nast Traveller and Washington post and has won several international awards including a Silver at the Aop, Archive,Communication Arts and the International photographers awards.In 2010 his project the shrinking horizons of childhood gained an honorable mention at the Bernice Abbott photo awards in America.He established Photoparley, a meeting place for photo artists in Dublin.