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Gallery of Photography Ireland, Dublin. Becoming the leading avenue for photography

Gallery of Photography Ireland has become the leading influence for photography in Ireland. Advancing a dynamic culture of photographic practice across a wide range of platforms is, in fact, the aim of the gallery. Founded in 1978 by John Osman, the gallery has since featured work by many of the leading talents in photography. Being recognized as the leading institution for photography, they have the ability to capture and showcase the culture of Ireland to the world.

Darragh Shanahan is the manager of the gallery. He is currently embarking on a project involving past and present exhibitors. «I am trying to get in contact with everyone who has presented work at the gallery previously for an exhibition». 2016 saw the opening of Ireland’s first permanent museum of photography- Photo Museum of Ireland – the national centre of photography. Initiating the launch, Gallery of Photography has long awaited to expand on its journey in capturing Ireland and sharing it both nationally and internationally. «We look forward to fostering new talents, encouraging discussion as well as critical debate around the exciting future of photography in Ireland». 

The Gallery of Photography relies on specific values. The aim is, in fact, to stay true to their mission and evolve with the ever changing and modern-day world. Supporting artists, commitment to excellence, inclusion and respect for diversity, deep engagement, ethics, integrity and transparency are the principles of the gallery. «Whilst building the foundations, a Viking village was under cover. It was held up by the building of the structures for two years whilst they extracted around two thousand artefacts».

Architects O’Donnell and Tuomey designed the building. It is based in Temple Bar, Meeting House Square in Dublin. The professionals designed the space with flexibility in mind, to cater towards a varied programme of fluctuating exhibitions and events. Equipped with hinged and sliding screens to position double the available wall-hanging space to cater for larger exhibitions. A key element of the building’s design is the large-scale window, symbolising the camera lens, which operates as a screen for films and photographs that can be projected from the photography archive across the square.

«All photography was hand-made in the seventies. There were no digital avenues available. Therefore, in order to make and view photographs the dark room was a much-needed facility». The gallery still provides use of the unique facilities including the dark room. As a matter of fact, they provide the only open access darkroom and digital production facilities in Dublin. «There are only five of us working here at Gallery of Photography. We all work full time, as we are such a small team. During Covid-19 we had to work online. This gave us the chance to develop supplementary projects. The amount of work we were participating in increased rather than decreased, which we are grateful for». 

During the Coronavirus pandemic, the gallery published their latest book titled Photo Album of Ireland. The book invites Canadians of Irish heritage to visit their legacy through photography. Reflecting the experiences of a broad range of families, embracing diverse ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. From old pictures dating from the invention of photography in the mid nineteenth century through to digital images capturing experiences of immigrants to Canada across several generations. «We are currently working on another book release. The novel will be titled History of Photography in Ireland, in our own image, and will serve as a widespread exhibition».

Hosting free exhibitions for its customers, seven days a week, the gallery is able to showcase work by establishing up and coming Irish and international artists. The gallery hosts a range of events from talks, tours and workshops. The aim is to encourage active engagement as well as to promote critical discussion regarding the issues at the heart of photography. «Our exhibition programme is planned twelve to fifteen months in advance».

A previous exhibition hosted by the gallery was titled A Woman’s Work: Clare, a two-person exhibition of work by Clare Gallagher and Csillia Klenyanszki. The exposition featured Gallagher’s series The Second Shift – referring to the burden of housework and childcare, and how emotionally draining motherhood can be. Klenyanszki’s Pillars of Home shone light on the juxtaposition of parenting and how to find balance within the chaos of everyday life as a mother. 

Gallery of photography, Ireland

«Our most recent diversity commission was calling out photographers to represent diversity in Dublin. Artists took part in a billboard exhibition in Dublin, providing them with national exposure». Parr’s Ireland: 40 years of Photography is the latest exhibition to be released by Martin Parr. The display is set to go ahead on the twenty-sixth of June and run to the fifth of September. Parr has been taking photographs in Ireland since the eighties. During this time period he has managed to capture Ireland in its evolving state. He also created a series of images presenting the effects of wealth and Americanisation on the country.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication titled From the Pope to a Flat White published by Damiani. The tour of the exhibition will begin at the Gallery of Photography Ireland, Roscommon Arts Centre. It will later travel to Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art, before reaching its final destination at the Belfast Exposed Gallery in the north of Ireland. 

Besides their fulfilled exhibition programme, the gallery provides a further range of events. As an example, The Young Photographer of the Year 2021 was a free online smartphone workshop. Its objective was to share the creative visions of young photographers. Further, the Fótó na nÓg Young Photographers Awards Programme was designed for teenagers aged thirteen to eighteen. It took place last month. An artist commission project launch is another event they are providing with photographer Kate Nolan, composer Irene Buckley and curator Trish Lambe. The online event took place on the seventh of May in video format. The completed work Having Regard was presented as part of the contemporary programme in the upcoming In Our Own Image – Photography & Ireland landmark history of photography season commencing in November 2021.

The Gallery of Photography Ireland have also developed their own graduate award scheme. The awards support the winners in making work in the first year of their creative endeavours. Each year, a selection of three young artists takes place. They have to produce a deluxe portfolio set of prints with accompanying text and digital assets.

Receiving curatorial support and personal feedback, production support along with one-to-one tutorials, and critical writing skills, a workshop assisting the graduate in the terminology of their work. «We are delighted to help young and aspiring artists achieve their dreams. Further, we want to continue showcasing photography as an art form. We also want to encourage people to see the beauty and peculiarity of an image captured».

Over the course of the coronavirus lockdown, the gallery launched online courses in software programmes such as Adobe Photoshop, bookbinding, framing and mounting etc. «We launched a range of courses online and they were very successful. Through this activity, we were able to reach a greater number of students from all over the country, due to the courses on Zoom».

«We are also working on a project titled Gallery TV. This is a series of interviews with artists in regard to their work. We are hoping to make a four or five – minute mini documentary that we will publish on our YouTube channel. This, in turn, will promote each of the artists we work with and create a capsule archive of video for our gallery». The gallery previously interviewed Mandy O’Neil who in return still promoted the video.

Gallery of Photography Ireland also promotes a wide variety of Irish artists in photo book form, throughout their photo bookshop. Hosting book launches and signings, each artist has a chance to display their work in the bookshop and engage with customers in the gallery. They are developing a new print sales outlet to promote a culture of collage photography in Ireland. 

Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland
Gallery of Photography Ireland is a not-for-profit arts organization. The Arts Council is the institution supporting it.

Shanay Taylor

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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