A Portrait of a Village
by Kim Cunningham
The pictures are taken in Laytown, County Meath, which is where I'm from. I started photographing in 1997 because I knew I was going to leave and move to London after I'd finished studying photography in Dublin.
Laytown is a small seaside village in the countryside. Even though we're about 7 miles from the nearest town it still feels quite cut off. I grew up in a typically working class area; although there are quite a few people there, not a lot of money was spent on facilities. There are a couple of pubs but there are no youth clubs. There was a library but that got shut down a few years ago. So that's it. There is nothing to do.
When I started photographing some of the young people in the pictures were my peers but the pictures taken recently show a younger generation. Even now I still know everyone in the pictures and some of them are from my own extended family. I can feel a connection with everyone there. That's what I was trying to convey in the pictures, the day-to-dayness of village life, it's no different from a lot of villages in Ireland or England. You must get on with things. That's where family and friends become important, hanging out with friends, that's your life.
The picture of the guy with the baby is called Behind the Library because that is where it is. The library is closed down and that's their private space. Not an ideal situation but if they want to spend some time with friends that's where they go. I think after a while they didn't even notice the graffiti, it became homely. My house, where I grew up, is right beside the library and for me it doesn't seem that dramatic. Perhaps it would for someone looking at it for the first time.
There are different emotions across the pictures. There is the quiet and monotony that is part of village life, but there is also a charm about it that you only get in small communities; the familiarity in the faces. I can't explain the feeling I get when I go back there. I know everybody. You look at your own identity, there's a sense of belonging but also a sense of isolation. A lot of the people I know, who went to university, have left because there wouldn't be much chance of getting a job.
The pictures may not be uplifting but I don't want to evoke any sympathy, it's more about trying to capture, among other things, that helpless feeling, that I have had myself, of not knowing what's round the corner and that maybe 'this is it'.