You never work Alone…

From Ideas to final Ads

The Great Italian Cinematographer Vitorrio Storraro once said that “All great films are a resolution of a conflict between darkness and light. There are infinite possibilities for the use of light with shadows and colors.” 

 Alone is an Irish Charity that brings light into the lives of older people , no question about the work they do . Alone is a charity . Alone is a state of being. Alone is a feeling. Alone is being alone.

I was asked by Irish Advertising agency Bonfire to contribute to their ideas for a series of posters , here are four of the final ones.  Art Director Sean Hynes and I discussed the project, and we picked out the objects . Our feeling was to create a look that would be consistent no matter what size the objects or rooms that we photographed. I thought of films that I liked and I loved the look of The Immigrant , which was photographed by Frenchman Darius Khondji . I used his work as a style but his colours are more sepia, I wanted something rich , warm , inviting , not dreary or a confusion of colours . His films are shot on sets , however we shot in real houses and apartments , my mother chipped in as location scout and found me one of her friends houses for one image. The colour  was all done in camera with lighting gels and the lenses I used are the same ones used for film making. I think they have a film feel , and although i was thinking of adding grain back into the pictures, i felt no need .
No major retouching or tweaking was done, we wanted the objects to have a personality almost be the characters in the story. This is the result of a good creative collaboration, between client, agency and creative and working with heart. 

Agency : Bonfire Dublin Ireland 

Concept : Ian Doherty and Sean Hynes

Client : Alone


10 Photographs illustrate why I Photograph?

See all the photos mentioned here at the bottom of the page.

Irish Beaches 

When I lived in London what I missed most about Ireland was the easy access to the coast, in Ireland , you were never that far from the sea.
I also loved the beach as a neutral space for photography. Photographing at the beach is slow and relaxing.
I did a big project on Irish beaches and no matter what part of the coastline I went to something revealed itself to me .
I won a silver award at the AOP (Photographers awards)  in London for it . The award was presented to me by Melvyn Bragg.
I was obsessed with achievement, ambition as a photographer was almost a necessary competitive skill. Now I’m more careful to find time to relax, see work as just one part of my life and not the reason for it.

 Johnny Mullan

Johnny was our neighbour, he died a few years ago. He lived with his mother until she died at around 90 and he never married.
His dog was his companion. He lived simply. He never drank, he didn’t smoke. He wasn’t particularly religious or into sports.
He loved to fish and walk with his dog in through the fields . 
He loved company and telling stories and loved a good laugh. If only we could enjoy life like Johnny and if we could spread this sense of happiness to others, then our lives would surely be more contented? 

 Man on Beach

This photography was part of a series about Irish Identity for TG4 and it started a long interest in photographs with only one person in them.
Why? Because a human a person or face transforms the landscape into something that opens up a dialogue around the relationship between us and our environment.
It asks us to consider our oneness, aloneness, our vulnerability. I find that mystery connects me to the most mysterious person in my life, my father. 

Cara 

This Photograph of Cara my niece, was the visual style breakthrough I needed for my Project The Shrinking Horizons Of Childhood.
Most of the series features kids indoors on their phones or at computers or watching TV. 

The children were photographed indoors in their glass boxes, like exotic birds . I was trying to find a way of making the connection with Nature at the same time as creating the feeling of how these kids are cut off from it.
The project was exhibited in London and became a small book. 

 Luke

 After the Shrinking Horizons Of Childhood Project I wanted to explore how life was for rural Teenagers and I interviewed them about their lives.
The logo or theme became the quality of light that you often get in Ireland. This overcast grey but beautiful and soft quality of light.
You wouldn’t get these qualities of light in California for example. Shot on 120 film Kodak 160NC.

 BellX 1 

I shot the Music in Mouth Album Photography for BellX1 and Universal music.  Something about the connection with my personal photos and these art directed shots made a connection for me to the kind of still Life I enjoyed shooting.
We used Irving Penn, the great American photographer as our reference, however we added a style of lighting Penn didn’t use- the ring flash. We shot them on a large format film camera , a very enjoyable studio job.

 Hazel by the Pond

 This is one of my favourite photographs. It perfectly captures my style of poetic observation.
I like to feel I’ve attuned my observation skills but I try to aim for something else in the image, almost something spiritual, that sets it apart from the clinical observation.
An Art Director said it reminded him of Tarkovsky and that’s a nice compliment.
The great thing is today anybody can use this style of observation to pay attention using their phones to capture their lives.

 Food BBQ 

I started out working in studios in London when people would create these big photography sets, Greek tavernas or Italian trattoria in warehouses in east London.
Food is one of the easiest subjects to make a bad photo of. Would you want to eat the food that people take with their phones of food?
This  BBQ Photograph illustrates the best of what we’re doing with Food Photography at the moment, our store of backgrounds and props, and making something as everyday as meat look good. I’ve developed a lighting style that is just for this type of work. 

 Hazel Bath

 I’m interested in everything so everything is a suitable subject for me to photograph. 
I sometimes would spend up to 600 euros a month on film and developing and making contact prints shooting my own projects and that was before digital photography. I was always trying out new stuff, in this case I taped a ring flash to the front of my Mamiya RZ film camera and shot this shot of Hazel mid bath, with water in her eyes,  she’s never forgiven me. 

 Shoe

 This was a picture I did that got me an Advertising campaign for the GAA all stars , being able to create these kind of photos is all about lighting. I wanted to replicate the kind of lighting you’d get in a small barn or shed. If you want to learn to light, put yourself into different situations and observe the light there. Then try to re create that in the studio. Lighting has to be the most enjoyable skill in photography. These days I often see things that are badly lit or have no sense of lighting direction or fail to use of the language of light.  


Interview

 What sparked your interest in photography ? 

My mother had a camera and she bought me a kit to develop film .
That got me very interested .

 Which photographers do you admire ? Walker Evans , Lewis Hine . Raymond Meeks, Josef Sudek. 

Where did you train / study ?
Trained in London with around 13 photographers doing a variety of work but mostly advertising . I studied a masters in photography at The University of Westminster . 

Who were your early teachers or mentors ? Paddy Pendergast took me into the Air corps to see the photo section of the Irish Military . At that time they were mapping the country using a plane fitted with very large format roll film camera . They would also be responsible for photographing prisoner head shots and doing large military group shots as well as lots of other stuff .Theo Bergstrom taught me so much about how to light in his London studio, he was a great teacher, photographer and person . 

What are your artistic influences ?
Atget, Walker Evans ,Tarkovsky , Irving penn, John Wooden , John Cassavetes, Lewis hine , Vittorio Storaro , Johan Cruyff ,David Byrne , Leo Messi, David Bowie , Andra Pirlo, Clive Woodward , Van Morrison , Rembrandt , Walter Murch , David Hockney , John Claridge ,William Eggleston, Roe Ethridge , Hoyte van Hoytema, Roger Deakins, Emmanuel Lubezki, Ang Lee, Chris Doyle just to name a few. 

What was the most satisfying moment on a job ?
-Chilling in the sand dunes listening to the art director telling stories of the glory days of advertising .
-Getting a letter of thanks from a client at the end of a project was a nice surprise . Laughing my head off while photographing my assistant Hu in his boxers in the street in Brooklyn for a job. 

 Have you made any memorable mistakes ?
Yes . On my very first job. I was wearing a wool jumper that my aunt knitted for me while loading film in the darkroom and the tiny natural fibres came off and onto the film. All the shots had to be retouched. That was a big deal then.

What’s the best advice you’ve received ?
Don’t make the same mistake twice (Alex Ferguson)

What recent art works inspired you ?
Gravity and The Revenant two films shot by Emmanuel Lubezki, The Films IDA, Her and Mud and The Vertical Ray of the Sun. The Queen of Ireland and 100 Mornings by Conor Horgan. Eamon Doyle’s Books. 

If weren’t a photographer what might you be doing ?
Cinematography or Chef . 

Using Format