When I first met the wonderful Helen Sloan, she told me that all photographers are creeps. I was a bit taken aback, but she’s right - photographers want to see without being seen, to capture things that wouldn’t necessarily happen if people were aware that we’re there, quietly shooting away. Just as when this sleeping man caught my eye at Le 104 the other day, though I was quickly outcreeped by his girlfriend Agathe, who snuck in for a close-up. She’s also a photographer, of course.
Pascal and Irma Delamaire were friends of my mothers for many years, although I only met them for the first time shortly after I moved to Paris in 2017. Pascal and I quickly discovered that we’d much in common, including that earlier in life we’d both been puppeteers. My fledgling puppetry career was over before I left my teens, but he’d gone on to perform for many years, ending up on the best pitch in Paris – performing classical puppetry from inside a booth directly opposite Notre Dame. When he looked up during the show, all he could see beyond the puppets in his hands was the two bell towers of Notre Dame, and it gave him a great sense of connection with all the other puppeteers who’d performed in the same spot, with the exact same view, for hundreds and hundreds of years. I love that.
I got some concerned calls from friends and family in Ireland when they saw I was out taking photographs at the Gilet Jaunes protests. I assured them I was fine, having learned a valuable life lesson during my first ever riot*.
The current protests also remind me of attending a much quieter riot during the winter of 2011 in New York.
And of going to the May Day riots in Berlin, which turned out to be a very civilised affair.
*I was seventeen and had just started taking photographs when I went my first riot, which kicked off during a squatter’s protest in Nørrebro, Copenhagen. Unfortunately I didn’t get any good pictures - after a few hours hanging around in case something happened, when it actually did I was too busy running down a narrow city street as fast as I could from a terrifying wall of charging police, equipped with dogs and waving long mahogany batons. I didn’t have a press card, but even if I had it would have made absolutely no difference - they were determined to pacify everyone on the street with extreme force, no matter who they were. So my top riot tip is this: in a riot, stay as far away as possible from the people who are most likely to hurt you, and those people are probably the police.
My book of New York photos is available online. Limited-edition prints from the book are available for purchase at The Copper House Gallery in Dublin. You can see a piece I did on New York for Narratively here.
L'Absinthe, 1876, by Degas
L'Absence, 2012, by me
Oliver Stanley was a beautiful man, and a really great friend to me. He died, aged forty-one, on this day in 1995. Remembered with warmth, much love, and this dedication.
He’d be pretty tickled to know I was posting a picture of his arse to the entire world, all these years later. There’s a portrait of him in this gallery.
We saw these two walking towards us, and I said “He must be in love”. “He must have done something terrible”, replied Nicole.
I first met Nicole Flattery when we were both in the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, and was really impressed by her clever and funny short stories. We did a portrait in the centre that became the author photograph in her new collection, which was given a rave review ("a highly addictive mix of deadpan drollery and candour") in the Guardian yesterday.
About eighteen months ago I had a screenplay to finish and wanted to go somewhere warm, cheap and interesting* to get it done, and Lisbon sounded like it would be just the place. It didn’t happen in the end, but I did get to visit for a couple of days last January and very nice it was too.
*When a friend from Northern Ireland overheard what I was looking for, she couldn’t stop herself blurting out “Then why on earth would you move to Lisburn?”
“One night, Majella O’Donnell brought her son Philly to be shot in both legs”. So begins this week’s episode of An Irishman Abroad, featuring journalist and film-maker Sinead O’Shea telling the story of how she came to make the feature documentary “A Mother Brings Her Son To Be Shot”.
I’ve just begun a new writing project.
Donal Foreman’s “The Image You Missed” is a really interesting essay film about his relationship with his estranged father, Paris-based documentary maker Arthur MacCaig. I saw it last year in The Pompidou Centre, and asked Donal to sit for a portrait the next day. We met at the cafe in the 5th Arrondissement where he last saw his father, who died in 2008.
As I was shooting, a man who looked like Arthur MacCaig passed by in the background.
“The Image You Missed” screens this evening at the Odeon Point Square Cinema in Dublin, as part of the Five Lamps Arts Festival.
Portraits of Margaretta D'Arcy and John Arden for a piece on married couples in The Telegraph Magazine. They refused on principle to appear in the same picture as they weren't actually living together. Margaretta filmed me as I photographed her, and when we were finished took me up to the attic where there was a tangle of wires hanging from a bare bulb in the ceiling. She flicked a switch, thrust a microphone into my face and said "You are now broadcasting live on the world's only Irish language, feminist pirate radio station - what have you got to say for yourself?" Not a lot, as it turned out.
“You look like the kind of people who probably bump into each other a lot...maybe at the same library” - Alan Sparhawk of Low, nailing the audience demographic at last night‘s gig in Rouen.
I’ve loved Low’s melancholy songs, distorted guitars and eerie harmonies for some time, so it was a real treat to get to see them live.
They didn’t disappoint, with this being a highlight of the evening.
Friday was supposed to be Brexit day. I took the train to London to see “Grief is a Thing with Feathers” at the Barbican. It was extraordinary. I walked through London the next day, and it has its own sense of loss at the moment. You can feel it.
I shot some portraits recently of Irish transgender people for Michele-Ann Kelly’s Transition, Family and Me project. When Sarah R Phillips and I started talking about music it turned out we’d both been to many of the seminal punk gigs in Dublin. I asked if she’d seen the legendary Slaughter & The Dogs play in Belfield, and she told me not only was she there, she still goes to see them every chance she gets. Respect.
Today is the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Liz Carolan is a self-confessed data and transparency nerd. In 2018, she set up a project to bring transparency to online advertising in Ireland’s referendum on the 8th amendment which banned abortion. That project led to a change in policy by Facebook and Google, and prompted commitments by the Irish Government to reform electoral regulations. Reading about her work makes it even more obvious that treating social media, particularly Facebook, with an ever-increasing degree of scepticism can only be a good thing. See also: T-Bone Burnett’s incendiary keynote from SXSW.