I’m an Irishman in London. Been here a long time. Spent time in New York City too, and studied at ICP. I’ve always been a street photographer. As a kid I lived in Ireland, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. That’s a lot of visual and cultural stimulation. I’m also somewhat dyslexic and didn’t learn to read until well into my teens. But for me, it’s like a visual superpower rather than a hindrance. Sometimes I can see the world in slow motion and notice everything in front of me as I meander about the place. But there’s a price to be paid as organisationally, I struggle. Always have.
Life as it comes at me is what. Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, with whomever is present. If I’m awake, I have a camera to hand because you never know when a photograph may present itself. I’ve been doing this since 1988 just before entering art school.
My work has shifted some over time. Initially I was getting close to people. Observing gestures. Making the usual funny pictures of off kilter moments. Lots of dogs. My mother was a breeder. But now my work is more introspective, I guess. A bit more distant. Looking at the wider scene. It has been described as atmospheric. Lighting and colour are important. A sense of place.
Much of my archive is represented by Millennium Images here in London. The Art Director there said of my work that I “like to find mystery and menace in the everyday”. I’ll take that.
A big part of my practice now is building handmade books of my street photography. It’s almost as important to me as seeing and making the photographs themselves.
I’ll take a walk every day, with or without my dog. Lots of pictures are made then. But also when I’m working. My last job had me undertaking property assignments all over London and often, while journeying between locations, I’d make pictures.
The process has slowed down a bit though recently as I spend a lot of my time looking for work, making books, organising my archive so when I do get out I feel the pressure to see and make interesting pictures.
I primarily work in my immediate neighbourhood of southeast London. I used to get frustrated from time to time at not getting into central London to make work as often as I’d have liked, but one day, while walking home from school with my sons, I made a couple of photographs which sorted that out. One image reminded me of another I’d made much earlier so I went looking for it, which in turn pointed me to another. I came to the realisation that I was sitting on an archive of work made right in my ‘hood. This became my book, Hinterland.
Because I simply must. Photography, street photography or perhaps happenstance photography in particular, is my way of being in the world. It is what I have to offer. It’s what I do best.
I saw an interview hosted by the brilliant Irishman, Tommy Tiernan in which he referenced someone who said something like – if you are not sometimes embarrassed by the wonder eye being open in you, then maybe your wonder eye isn’t open at all. This really struck me. It’s a good one for us street photographers to ponder, I think. Wouldn’t you say?