Back to the Future!
The Experience of Galway 4040/Remains of us Project was a rewarding one for me and also a challenging way to get out of my comfort zone, here in my relatively isolated studio in Mountscribe, Kinvara. As i had to meet and photograph so many extraordinary individuals who’s paths i’d never normally cross.
I used the Courthouse in Galway as a meeting place to photograph the sitters, as i was doing temp Civil Service work in the Sheriff’s Office [They used to nick name me ‘Sheriff of Nottingham‘….hailing from there]. They it could be an unnerving place to meet, with so many shady characters in the public area. So sometimes i’d user the sitters across the road to the quiet of the town hall theatre [ which had good light for photographs].
I’ am shy by nature so it was quit daunting meeting such iconic individuals who’s work i admired and asking them to be photographed by a complete stranger’ who was going to make them appear 2,000 years older! [The premise of the exhibition was an ‘imaginary hypothetical future retrospective of today’s iconic Galway faces’. Archaeologists rediscover fragmented fresco portraits from the sunken city in 4040!!]
This process of photographing the sitters had a shaky start, particularly when i accidentally seemed to be recording rapid bursts of images of the writer Mike Mc Cormack [with my new I-phone], which made him appear as if he was winking! Though i was impressed how all the sitters were so easy going about being asked to look ‘lost in thought’. Kate O Toole was such a pro’ as she struck a pose and knew exactly how the light should fall, to bring out the best for her features. As i looked through the camera i was struck by the uncanny likeness of her eyes to that of her father, Peter O’Toole [the theme tune to ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ echoed round my head, but i was brought back down to earth, when a bus past by in the Galway rain outside].
In fact i was very impressed with President Michael D Higgins generous contribution, when i was invited up to the Aras an Uachtarain, to photograph him, in early December. I hadn’t slept much the night before as my wife Denise, had broken her wrist and was awaiting surgery that day. But Michael was an inspiration full of energy as he showed me around his office. As he poured me tea and gave me a seasonal mince pie, he said ‘do you know Marianne Antoinette possibly had once sat on that Sofa your sitting on [as the chair had come originally from Versailles]’ why i almost spilled the tea with nervous laughter! It felt such a privilege being able to photograph the President at such close proximity, where you could sense his vulnerability.
I was dreading the opening night of the exhibition, as none of the sitters had seen the finished results of their portraits and i was most concerned how women would react to seeing their faces portrayed 2,000 years older [even though its the surface of the paintings that’s meant to have aged through the erosion of the weather and ironically the sitters would be immortalised or timeless through the process]. Though thankfully everyone seemed to be delighted with the the results…phew, i can breathe again!
Below; Studio image of work in progress for Galway 4040, including Kate O’Toole and Tom Kenny’s fragmented fresco portraits [Background image- Top left; Remember when we were older painting , based on a still from a film i made about ageing. Top right; Rome revisited, Pizza Del Popollo.]