2018 raced in, trailed by snow and storms and chaos, and just a manic as its arrival, it’s almost gone. With a few weeks left in the year, I’d like to look back on the events of the past 12 months, for me a year of change, growth and creativity.
I put on my first photo exhibition (and hopefully not my last), I started a photography course in NCAD that is proving to be challenging and so rewarding. I did some travelling, in Ireland and outside, but more than that, I made strides towards a more creative life.
Below is just a short roundup of everything I’ve done or been involved in this year. May 2019 bring even more adventures!
Projects and Exhibitions, oh my
This year has been momentous for me with my photography; in July I exhibited some images for the first time. In print, on a wall, for everyone to see. I had been awarded some funding to develop my idea and put the finished product, 11 monochrome portraits of College staff, on the walls in Trinity College Dublin. I’d never before exhibited anything, and very rarely printed any of my images, even for family and friends. It was a steep learning curve, executed in a very short amount of time and exhibited in even less time. I was sad to see it being taken down, but I really hope this is the first of many and the start of my photography career.
And some more good news, four of my images have been selected to go on display in my workplace. The images have been beautifully printed and framed and will be on show for others to enjoy.
As I mentioned above, I’ve started a year-long part time photography course in the National College of Art & Design (NCAD). It has been a collection of firsts: a portfolio, presenting & explaining my work, working in different photography genres. I’ve completed the first project, a documentary photography project, and am in the middle of a difficult second one, environmental portraiture. I have one more after that, and then a paper to submit. It’s been a few years since I was in a classroom (as a student), but the challenge of thinking critically about my work, looking at new ways to photograph and pushing myself out of my comfort zone has meant I have already learned so much. I’ll be back with a review of the course in April, and some new images to share.
Rise & Repeal
On 25th May, Ireland voted to repeal the 8th amendment. The relief emitted from Irishwomen was felt around the world. As other countries worked to roll back women’s reproductive rights, Ireland took a step forward. For a country that had only closed the last Magdalene laundry in 1996, this was a massive development.
I had taken part in the previous years’ March for Choice, and on those cold September Saturdays it didn’t seem like anything would ever change. We would be marching forever. When the date for the referendum was announced, everybody braced for the clash of bitter words and accusations. Roadsides were wallpapered with graphic posters of foetuses and doctors urging a no vote. It seemed as if the anti-choice side had taken over our visual landscape. Election posters are an eyesore at the best of times, but these were particularly heinous.
Leaflets of (mis)information were pushed through letterboxes and shoved into reticent hands on busy streets. The battle for our bodies was frantic. In the end, or perhaps it is the beginning, compassion prevailed. A resolute 66.4% of the electorate said Yes, removing the misogynistic and cruel amendment. The result was unequivocal.
As a woman who has lived in the shadow of the amendment all of her adult life, the relief is something I still find difficult to articulate. I worried about a silent majority of No voters. I wasn’t wholly convinced we as a nation had made any progress in regards to women’s lives. I was steeling myself to fight on another year, another march. I know it would have taken a while to recover from the disappointment if the result had been different. I wholeheartedly believe the repeal of the 8th amendment is one of the greatest triumphs of 2018, for Irish women and men.
*Update: we still have a long way to go. Legislation to provide abortion care in Ireland has just recently been passed, coming on the same day we celebrated 100 years since (some) women got the vote in 1918.
To the West
The Great Western Greenway, Inishbofin and Achill
As has become a tradition, I headed west this year, away from the frenetic rush of the city once more. I hit the Great Western Greenway in May, my second time on this converted railway line and carried on to Achill in search of calm. This was one of the most difficult cycles I’ve undertaken. The Achill landscape is tough to conquer, and on a bike, perhaps the island had the upper hand. I met some friendly, helpful people who took pity on my transport choice and drove me around the island. The dramatic landscape, swept by strong Atlantic winds, laid out before me at every turn looked like it was painted by the masters.
The island of Inishbofin in June did not disappoint. It is one of my favourite places in the world, and the lack of a good internet connection is its biggest attraction. The currachs and stone ruins, lobster pots dotting the coastline, calls of the elusive corncrake and nonchalant sheep make this place a quintessential west of Ireland spot to lose yourself, even for a long weekend. I wrote, I walked, I clambered over gates and walls. But mostly, I was swathed in silence. With all of our technological advances and hyperconnectivity, finding stillness is always an achievement.
Cycling the Peninsula
On the very edge of Europe, jutting out into the Atlantic lies the pretty town of Dingle. All along this rugged peninsula of spectacular seascapes and majestic mountains rolling into the sea, I was met with hospitality, warmth and good humour during my visit in July. It was my first time in Dingle and on the Slea Head Way, and I’m still going through the many images I took during the 3 days, but I long to travel back, to see the Blasket Islands for a start. Like much of the Wild Atlantic Way, and the west coast of the country, it is very much a paradox: wild and calm. It’s a chance to slow down and connect with nature, which at times can be ferocious.
Hong Kong travels
This city wears a lot of hats
My big international trip of the year was to Hong Kong at Easter. This was the first time I’d been to this dazzling fusion of cultures and contrasts. Ornate temples sat amidst high rise buildings; cityscapes mixed with lush green parklands. The ultra modern existed beside important historical relics. The rush was exhilarating; the mass of people out on the streets every evening was a gift to people watching. It is a city that promises a mixture of different cultures of food and always delivers. My favourite place to eat was on the street, tasty and fast with a queue winding round the corner (so you knew it had to be good). If the signs weren’t in English, you could just as easily point to curried fish balls, egg waffles or fried squid tentacles on offer.
You would never be bored in a city like this, and if you needed a break from the feverish pace, there are expansive green spaces on your doorstep. There is ample space to practice tai chi in the morning, looking out over the harbour, or take a trek up to the Big Buddha and Po Lin monastery on Lantau Island.
With plenty to see and do for all the family in Hong Kong, and now with direct flights from Dublin, there’s no reason not to make this city bursting with energy a part of your plans in 2019.