The story behind my book: Wild Atlantic Way – Light on the Water, Shadows on the Land
This week marks the one-year anniversary of my Wild Atlantic Way book, so I thought I’d offer you an insight into the journey behind this book and my love of photography books.
I moved to Kinsale at the age of fifteen, and it was from my parents’ garden that I first experimented with the effect of light on water using a Pentax K1000, and this is a theme I return to time and time again. I was blessed to have the Atlantic tides on my doorstep, always providing me with incredible scenes to capture. Long before the Wild Atlantic Way found its name, Ireland’s west coast already had my attention.
I am often asked about where and how I got started as a photographer, and the beginning starts with a school assignment featuring Kinsale’s beautiful harbour. There was a school project on the subject of fishing in Kinsale, and I was the student nominated to take the photographs for it. I was taken out on a boat to capture some fishing scenes and this assignment gave me my first taste of photographing Ireland’s dramatic coastline.
It’s now 40 years since I picked up my first camera, and my journey as a photographer has taken me to some stunning international locations, from the ancient city of Rome to the breathtaking Yosemite National Park, and yet, there is still no place quite like home. Ireland’s wild Atlantic coastline is still my main source of inspiration, and keeps on drawing me back.
My portfolio has always been dominated by Irish landscapes from along the west coast, so it felt like a natural choice to have the Wild Atlantic Way theme for this book. I decided on this concept a few years ago, and once I had that set in my mind, it informed the locations of my subsequent photography trips. I was inspired to travel to new locations along the Wild Atlantic Way such as Derrynane and Waterville, and revisit familiar and beloved locations, such as Dingle, the Aran Islands and the Beara Peninsula, resulting in six new Irish collections. Through these trips, I was particularly taken by the beauty of Sligo’s beaches and the discovery of West Cork’s Three Castle Head.
In collating the content for this book, I also had to revisit previously-released collections, and I was delighted to discover images that I hadn’t included in the original launches of these collections, so these forgotten images make a welcome appearance in the Wild Atlantic Way book. Looking back on my Mayo 2013 collection in particular, I was reminded of the memorable experience of exploring Doo Lough for the first time, and it also reminded me of how lucky I am to be only a drive away from these incredible locations.
Ireland’s west coast is an endless source of inspiration; the weather is constantly changing, and so too is its canvas. You could travel the Wild Atlantic Way ten times and produce ten different books with the material it inspires, and that is where I struggled with this book. If I’m being honest, I didn’t particularly enjoy the cutting process. Editing the content down to a considered collection of images was not easy, but not every image will fit in with the narrative of the book, even the images you love, so sometimes you have to be a bit ruthless and let them go – there will be another home for them somewhere else one day (maybe in a different book in the future).
The Wild Atlantic Way’s six regions – the Haven Coast, Southern Peninsulas, the Cliff Coast, the Bay Coast, the Surf Coast, and Northern Headlands – provided a nice framework to curate the images into thematic sections. The book begins in my hometown of Kinsale and journeys northwards along the west coast, ending in Donegal. Following the specific route along the Wild Atlantic Way helped with the book’s structural element.
There are a few reasons why I wanted to produce this book. For starters, my last book, Ireland: Timeless Images, covered my work from the early analogue years through to my transition into the digital age, so this was a nice opportunity to chronicle my recent work. And of course, there’s an element of vanity with seeing your name on the cover of a new book (I admit shamefully!) And there’s also a sense of finality about a book that appeals to me; there’s a beginning and an end to it. In my gallery, my exhibited work is constantly changing, and I’m always adding to it, and sometimes images get lost to you with all these changes. But I like knowing that no matter what happens in the future, this book will always have a resting place – it won’t change.
Photography books also mean a great deal to me because they were my first entry into the world of photography. When I started out as a young photographer in the early eighties, the internet did not exist, so the only way to access the work of renowned international photographers that I admired, such as Ansel Adams, was through books and journals. I would travel to Easons in Cork city, and visit their small photography-book section, and the books that lined these shelves were my source of inspiration as an amateur photographer.
My library still features the books that I collected when I was starting out, including: Ansel Adams’ Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs; Robert Doisneau’s La Vie D'un Photographe; Brassaï’s Paris de Nuit; and the Photofile book series on the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Brassaï. I was also inspired by the Camera Work journal published in the early 20th century, which was edited by Alfred Stieglitz. Camera Work was the first photographic journal to focus on the visual and that’s what I loved about it. One of my favourite books is Camera Work: The Complete Illustrations 1903 - 1917, which is a facsimile reproduction of the original illustrations that were published in the journal’s fifty editions.
For today’s Instagram generation the concept of photography books may seem foreign, but for me, they played a big role in my early years and will always hold a special place in my studio.