Representing Ireland

 BrianCooneyPhotography 2
I took this image just after I returned home from Ireland in 2012 from living for the previous 6 years in France. The summer was a miserably wet one and the economic outlook was just as dismal. The image seemed at the time to ‘fit’ one impression I had of Ireland from listening to the radio and reading the news (I’ve since restricted my consumption of ‘News’). The reason I was posting this is that I am researching a project at the moment for a series of images or ‘representations’ of Ireland.  Research has become a vital part of a project or a series for me and before I even begin shooting I start by trying to get clear on what I want to say with a set of photographs.  More and more now I work on a series rather than a picture at a time , although of course I still just go out and shoot just for the pleasure, the joy of making images.  

The first question that pop’s into my mind is how do you represent Ireland? How do you give a sense of the place that is Ireland? I mean straight away I see a series of pictures of places like the Cliff’s of Moher or Newgrange. The problem with these is that they do not represent what I would call Ireland, my own personal view of Ireland if you like. Another series of preconceptions would involve the movie The Commitments; The old Smithfield market, kids riding ponies bareback, Ballymun etc.  These are a bit like stereo types now and I want this series to be my impressions of Ireland not Alan Parker’s – even though I love that movie!


So I have several different versions of Ireland, probably too many to show them all but for instance the image above, taken on Inis Mor – the Aran Islands is one representation of Ireland as a rural place, the Irish bar is a fairly strong Irish cultural icon too.  

BrianCooneyphotography 0346

But so too could this picture of a ghost estate in county Leitrim.  The Ghost estate has also become a cultural icon representing Ireland for some.

I am not saying one is right and the other is not or even that one is better than the other just that they booth represent different aspects of Ireland, the place.

Actually I bought a book recently called Representing Ireland that was compiled of photographs of Ireland made by tourists and visitors that is kind of what I am getting at.  It was curated by photographer Michael Durand and you can find 

As part of that research I really want to hear (and see) your version, your impression of Ireland, what places represent Ireland to you?  Even if you have never been here before you can help me by describing your impressions.   Please feel free comment, leave me links etc on this post below, I will reply and follow up on each post too.  It just Might take me some time!

About briancooney123

HOW I GOT HERE Of course, I wasn’t always a full time photographer. I spent a lot of time in the corporate world. I had a job which paid well, but just didn’t excite me. I remember the day when I had had enough. Enough of selling myself short, enough of dreaming too small, enough of doing what others expected of me. I had put away my dreams and told myself I would get back to them later, but somehow there always seemed to be something else that had to get done first. A friend of mine had recommended I take the NLP Business Practitioners course, and although I was really busy, I decided to do it. During that time, I began to imagine the different paths my life could take from here. While I had a hazy picture of what this other life might look like, I had a clear picture of where my current life was going if I didn’t change. It was a scary moment, a bit like standing on the edge of a cliff deciding whether to jump into the great unknown or stay on the cliff, safe but trapped. I jumped. The transition to the life I wanted was challenging The transition to the life I wanted was challenging but I would never go back. After that day I resolved to do what I love, to follow my bliss.  Picking up a camera after several years away, I found that many things had changed, the digital age had arrived. In the intervening years, I was too busy to pay any attention to my photography, and occasionally when I took something I really liked, I would think “how do some photographs seem so captivating and others leave me completely cold?” I knew this is what I was meant to do Somehow though, I knew this is what I was meant to do. I dedicated myself to learning everything I could about being a photographer. I took many, many courses and I read every book I could get my hands on, I still do. Since then, I have dedicated myself to helping other creative photographers achieve the results they want. And what a journey it has been. Last year I qualified as a coach. My main area of interest is creativity and helping others to express their vision. WHAT I BELIEVE Along the way, I’ve learnt that there are no rules. Experiment, explore, play. My advice is to make your art from your heart, not for the praise or the money.  Lighten up. It’s important to take your photography seriously, but it's a mistake to take yourself too seriously. Finally, you get what you want when you never, ever give up so enjoy every minute of it and just do it!
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2 Responses to Representing Ireland

  1. aidymcglynn says:

    Interesting question Brian. I think, as you say, there are many different aspects to it, depending on location and personal inclination. Is it city life, rural life, rugged landscapes, night life, Croke Park on a big game day? For me personally, I like to be out on the hills or round the coast, so those type of images represent my experience, or idealised experience, very well. Images of people at home watching Premiership football, soaps or X-Factor on tv are probably just as representative of real day to day life, but I would find it depressing. A realistic overview would have to include a very varied mix of images however, some attractive, some not.

    • Adrian
      Thanks for your comment. There are lots of different ways to address this question but I was thinking of how Ireland is represented to, for example, tourists versus how I would represent it personally. If you chose one or two places that represent ti to you where would they be? By the way, lets not be realistic here! If you could choose anyway, any place that represents the land Ireland to you personally where would you start?

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