BEST OF SOURCE
archive selections by
I have been one of the editors of Source from 1994 and although I have periodically gone through our back catalogue, preparing for talks about the magazine, this has been an opportunity to look back with a more specific remit: choosing work by photographers based in or from the island of Ireland. Source has returned to some of the photographers’ work a number of times over the years and I have met many of the photographers through our open submission days. Both these forms of encounter inform my choices and thoughts on the work.
Lorraine Tuck’s work first came to my attention when we reviewed her book The Whistle Blowing, that documented the line of the former Connemara railway, in Source Issue 85. The work that I am selecting here, Unusual Gestures, documents the family life of Tuck, a mother of two boys with autism and two daughters, living on a farm in the west of Ireland. Tuck first showed me an edit of the work when we met at the Gallery of Photography Dublin on a Source open submission day. The image of her son Manus sitting on his father’s knee on a lawnmower was in the original edit and drew me into the project. The caption accompanying the image highlights the importance of the sensory feedback that the lawnmower engine provides to her son Manus and the soothing effect of the vibrations. Whether images should be anchored by captions has been a recurring question in recent years when I am discussing work with photographers. In this work they provide another important layer of meaning and insight into Tuck’s family life.
I remember first seeing Maurice Hobson’s work in a 1988 copy of Creative Camera with the issue theme 'Photo Works from Northern Ireland' in the college library in Gwent College of Higher Education, Newport where I studied photography in the late 1980’s. Hobson had also studied at the college although he had graduated in 1981. I had always remained curious about the work, wondering if there was more of it and whether there was an archive of the work anywhere. Hobson died in 1987 from post-traumatic epilepsy, the long term consequence of being caught in an IRA bomb blast in 1975 on his way to school in Dungannon. This was an event that was to become the focus of his photography in a series of manipulated self-portraits that reveal the horror of that experience and the subsequent impact on his life. That work came back onto my radar when a selection of it was shown at the Atypical Gallery, near the Source office, in Belfast in 2018. Seeing it, again dovetailed with the redesign of Source and our new archive feature. Subsequently I was able to meet with his brother David, who kept Maurice’s archive in the family home, hence I was able to borrow the original material to scan for publication. Scanning the negatives anew and seeing these images materialize on screen was a very personal way to reconnect with the work. It was also moving to hear about the importance of holding onto the archive for the family, and the difficulties that created in discussions about moving it to an institutional archive.
I met up with Miriam O’Connor to see new work on a Source Open submission day as part of Cork Photo Festival in 2018, the Festival ran between 2013 and 2018 and I travelled to it for a number of years to meet with photographers in that area. O’Connor’s earlier work, Attention Seekers had been included in a review as part of a group exhibition in Cork (Source Issue 69 2012), and we reviewed her self published book The Legacy Project in Source Issue 78 in 2014. This incremental awareness of someone's work from reviews to inclusion as a feature, is another aspect of the way that Source engages with photographers. Tomorrow is Sunday, the work selected here, explores an unanticipated return to the family farm following the death of her brother in 2013. O'Connor documents what is now on her doorstep: recording, compiling and indexing, driven by a desire to comprehend this complex transition and to regain some semblance of order, where past and present might begin to reconcile in some way. There is a risk in combining too many approaches in one work, but here I enjoy the mix; the typologies of gathered farm material, the portraits with their compelling connection between mother and daughter and the pathos of many of the images. Colin Graham was commissioned to write the introductory essay to the work. While we often try and identify a research interest in common between photographer and writer, in this case the connection was unusual, being based on their mutual experience of farming as well as Colin’s expertise in writing about photography.
David O’Mara’s graduate work from the National College of Art and Design appeared in Source Issue 25, 2000 and Source also exhibited the work as part of a series of exhibitions at the Old Museum Arts Centre in Belfast. O'Mara has spent the years since graduating sustaining his photographic practice by working on building sites in London. Throughout this period he has carried his camera to make the time more his own, and as a way of remembering what would otherwise be lost in the daily routine. If You Can Piss... was edited from this archive of material and documents his experience in the construction industry. It appeared in Source Issue 90 which took the theme of 'The Insiders' and it is the access that O’Mara managed to negotiate with the people he was working with that is key to the work. The claustrophobic conditions of the workspace make the closeness to the subject matter both physical and conceptual. A central image shows O’Mara’s Leg and foot, as he looks down through the camera, as he advances precariously across a plank above a large hole. The potential to disappear into the void seems real and spiritual.
Gareth McConnell’s portraiture was included in early issues of Source (Issue 16 1998, and Issue 28 2001). In those series he explored a fascination with those on the edge of society and this has remained consistent in his work, alongside his ability to gain the trust of people for a long enough duration to make their portrait. McConnell first went to Ibiza in 1993, searching for the Balearic dream, in his own personal 'summer of love'. He left six weeks later with no money, no shoes and no passport. He returned repeatedly between 2002 and 2012 to photograph young people who had come to the island, like him, to indulge in a hedonistic life. Ibiza Index, Nothing is Ever the Same as They Said it Was is the result. Looking across the images you can see how McConnell works with what he includes at the edges of the images to frame his sitters. The beer on the side board, the bottle tops and towels dropped on the floor. These details incrementally come together to describe life on the downside of the hedonistic dream.
Vukašin Nedeljković travelled to Galway to show me this project, working our meeting around the process of photographing one of the Direct Provision Centres that are at the core of the project. The direct provision scheme was introduced in Ireland in November 1999 to accommodate asylum seekers in state designated accommodation centres. There are more than 120 centres located across the country, some of which include former convents, army barracks, hotels, and holiday homes. At the time he showed me the project he was working under the name 'Asylum Archive' and was circumspect about using his real name. From April 2007 to November 2009, he had been housed in a Direct Provision, and was wary about his work and any impact it might have on his status in Ireland. Asylum Archive originally started as a coping mechanism during that time and went on to become an online resource, which ‘critically brings forward accounts of exile, displacement, trauma, and memory’. When we reproduced the work in Source we included poignant images the artist made of his parents before leaving Belgrade, and images of centre interiors which Nedeljković had obtained from those still living there. The centres are, for the most part, hidden in plain sight in unremarkable buildings in towns across Ireland. Some are caravan parks or former army barracks, invoking chilling associations with forced detentions and round-ups of Jews in world war two, and questions of who knew and whether they spoke out.
In the process of looking back over more than one hundred issues with several hundred portfolios, some of the work has lost my interest, often because the images become much easier to read through and my engagement with the work has been lessened. An attempt to read across Patrick Hogan’s work was always something that was a difficult process, and its unexplained nature may be the point, something amplified extended by Hogan not fixing the order of the images. Here, on the pages of Source, where one image will always sit opposite or follow another, it is hard not to be engaged in these mysterious co-incidences and narrative suggestions.
Malcolm Craig Gilbert approached Source directly with this work. When I talked to him initially, it was with some hesitation that I asked and he revealed that he yes he was a former police officer. It was a trust-building moment which enabled Source to publish the work. The work gravitates towards a type of imagery more associated with pulp fiction or blockbuster movies in its depiction of violence, rather than the photojournalistic imagery made during the conflict, or the artistic work that positioned itself as an antidote to that reportage. It was a way for Gilbert to exorcise his post traumatic stress disorder, which he had developed when serving during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Gilbert often appears as the main protagonist in these images, offering a rare perspective into the impact of violence on individuals in an institution that is often vilified in the cultural space.
Source’s connections with Trish Morrissey have built up over a long period of time, through the inclusion of her work a number of times in the print magazine starting with her portfolio in Source Issue 22 in 2000 as well as her inclusion in our series of extended Oral History interviews. The Failed Realist continues Morrissey’s interest in subverting the conventions of portraiture. In this work Morrissey collaborates with her four-year-old daughter who wanted to paint directly on to Morrissey's face, inspired by ‘something from her immediate experience, a movie she had just watched, a social event, a rite of passage or a vivid dream’. There are some pointers in the titles to this source material such as: Ladybird, Tooth Fairy, Party Girl, but the joy in the work are the gaps between starting point, end result and the world of the child's imagination. The stoic face of Morrissey throughout, gives the work a comic pathos worthy of Laurel and Hardy.
Mary McIntyre’s work appeared on the cover of Source Issue 6, 1995. We included the work as part of a feature on the group show Showing Off, which celebrated the ‘diversity of lens based media currently being produced by women artists working in Northern Ireland’. This was the third cover of Source that I selected the image for. I think I chose the image, in part, to subvert the normal head and shoulders image that you would expect on the cover of a magazine. An interest in the uncanny has remained for McIntyre, and is present although in a much subtler way in the more recent work which I have selected from Source Issue 68 2011. In Silent Empty Waiting For The Day McIntyre works with the quality of light to bring out a strangeness in the scraps of land she includes in her images. In Poised on the Threshold of my Hearing, the quality of light transforms the mundane most dramatically. The interior and more domestic images suggest more personal narratives.