Images from The Second Shift were exhibited as part of the substantial PhotoIreland Festival in Dublin Castle. The images were included to represent the significant strand of art around home in Ireland, as well as to challenge the dominant British Documentary representation of the North. As an academic, the exhibition also reflects on the continuity of work from staff to students on the island.
Images Are All We Have traces the thematic development of the discipline and contextualises its historical background, bringing together the diverse and socially engaged set of contemporary art practices that define Irish Photography today. It proposes new ways to understand and celebrate the discipline; structured around a set of themed galleries, visitors are invited to tease out new connections between narratives depicted, as much as to gain a broader understanding and appreciation of the practices presented.
British Documentary had an immense influence on Irish photographic practice in the 1980’s, with figures such as Paul Graham being repeatedly mentioned by photographers as a key figure. His work ‘Troubled Land’ offered a new approach to photographers otherwise exhausted of the abused photojournalist strategy that from the late 1960s was almost exclusively used to describe Northern Ireland.
This new way of observing, representing, and narrating brought together the bucolic and the critical, sharing frame in a calm and conscious reflection of the everyday life; the photographer replaced the space usually dedicated to sensationalism to allow for meditation, for pause, and for deeper engagement. Images then became quiet, still, charged with meaning, and misleadingly simple.
Irish photographers triple-distilled the imported practice and over time expanded their subject matters to other conflicts, other lands, other peoples. The evolution of Photography in Ireland is in great part to be credited to these photographers, who later in the 1990’s initiated the BA programmes that had provided the practice as a University degree since. Taught more often than not with a mixed approach between profession and Arts practice, it generated a creative and critical space where new practices thrived.