Privacy Note: Source uses cookies or similar technologies to analyze trends, administer the website, track users’ movement around the website and to gather demographic information about our user base as a whole. The technology used to collect information automatically from Source Users may include cookies, web beacons, and embedded scripts. In addition, we and our analytics providers (such as Google), and service providers (such as PayPal and Mailchimp) may use a variety of other technologies that collect similar information for security and fraud detection purposes and we may use third parties to perform these services on our behalf. If you continue to use this site, you agree that we can place these types of cookies on your device. 

Source Photographic Review - Back Issue Archive - Issue 4 Spring 1995 - Review Page - Reviewing My Insolent Ontologies - The Family Album - The Family Album exhibition from the National Library of Ireland, was at the Linenhall Library, February 1995 - Review by Nicholas Allen.

Reviewing My Insolent Ontologies - The Family Album
The Family Album exhibition from the National Library of Ireland, was at the Linenhall Library, February 1995
Review by Nicholas Allen

Source - Issue 4 - Spring - 1995 - Click for Contents

Issue 4 Spring 1995
View Contents ▸

If you take this as a study in planes you get the picture. In the background a wall, of a house with a quarter-window trapped between a spoked wheel and a carriage. In front of this and parallel, a skinny-haunched horse, arranged with the other family treasures, a beat-up chair and the living themselves. Which is what works for me.

The Sheridan and O'Brien family, Loughrea encampment, Galway, May 1954 
The Sheridan and O'Brien family, Loughrea encampment, Galway, May 1954  In an odd way the photo realises that stratification which generations impose and are left behind by. The brick of the house suggests enclosure of the muddy spaces the faces inhabit, and the carriage with its decorative marks rests only half in frame, its most angular feature the chimney pipe, symbol of the travellers' nemesis, the serried ranks of the city. Then the horse, its rear still attached visually to the coach, its long body ending in the elder's hand, the steam from its mouth a last organic challenge to the boilers, pipes, engine-cogs of a modern Ireland. On top of this, a smirking John Wayne, stuck to his steed and gazing at a grandfather who looks askance, eyes slanted down, tied to the horse's mouth, a reality not realised by the boy, a horse for pleasure, power, reliant muscle. Disturbing as a symbol one tends to feel the knacker's yard will glue more than one of these folk into a bind already set.

In different angles, mostly pitched to the viewfinder, the other figures are displayed. Most informative are their feet; the curly haired boy at the front pulls his shorts up delicately like a Victorian lady mindful of her finery, his sandal sludging dirt with his shoe, and aerated like the rubber boots and high heels of the other faces. Time slides on and in the middle the proud parents, holding the baby, smiling and with a dirty white shoe nestled between mother's feet. Why you may ask and where from you may continue and, like the holes in the boots and father's trousers which are an alright length until he moves to the slightest angle from sheer vertical it rests in your mind as alone, unpreened for a photograph, stuck to the earth and pointing the same way as the readily redundant horse, whose hoof rests parallel behind it, intimating the way of the forgotten.

Which is an achievement of the photo, allowing the planes of reference to intimate their own sense of movements beyond the control or even realisation of the protagonists, a sense of life but ordered to the effects of states which consign them to some kind of social phenomena. Which brings me to one little teaser about a notion of intent behind the composition. As a photograph this was installed amongst many in the cafe and members' room [sic] of Belfast's Linenhall library. Between the portions and newspapers, three brothers, evicted tenants and moustachioed starch collars beamed their slice at the tired viewer who received them patched together, stuck to hoardings, prints of prints. By the time I stumbled onto them, years had elapsed with so many of their smiles and I wondered at their remnants, making their own sense given a little time. This little time signalled the prints' own vitality, that perhaps unconscious sublimation of so much, achieved initially only as an experiment in documentation.

Other articles by Nicholas Allen:

Other articles on photography from the 'Family' category ▸