Some pics from this week …

I was on the road most of the week and here’s a few pics I like from different assignments and a bit of background to them. Top pic is Ryanair’s deputy chief Executive Michael Cawley at an early Monday morning press conference. There was really stromg sunlight behind the desk he spoke from so I just used it to make a silhouette.

Next up is a photo I took on Monday afternoon . I was between assignments around Baggott Street in Dublin. The light was great with really nice reflections on the canal. I shot this from the centre of another lock on a wide 16mill lens. The paper gave it a great show when we used it on page one on Tuesday.

Third pic down is from a  photocall at the RDS on Tuesday to publicise their Ice Skating Rink for the Christmas season.These two guys did an amazing job carving out a sculpture of a man and child skating.

One of the big news stories of the week was the announcement by Minister for Health James Reilly TD that St James’s Hospital would be the location of the new National Pediatric Hospital. He’s pictured  at the press announcement speaking to Dr. Frank Dolphin Chair of the Review Group behind Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald TD.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD attended a photocall on Wednesday morning at a special Children’s referendum campaign bus where I photographed him walking past the side of the bus. This was a real bunfight messy photocall. Too many of everything, PR people, supporters, politicians, media, a bit of a scrum. I like the strong colours in this pic. I was going to shoot it wide and get as much of the length of the bus in as possible but then changed my mind last minute and went tighter.

Last pic is from another  photocall in St Stephen’s Green on Thursday.The event was the announcement of details of the New Year’s Eve Festival to mark the beginning of the gathering Gestival 2013.There were an array of street performers, balloons in the shape of letters, politicians etc . I took a bunch of pics but like this the most even though it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. The subject is Lisa Sarsfield a performer with Bui Bolg Theatre group and she’s twirling flames around. I fired some flash into the photo and used a slow speed to try and capture the movement of the flames. Any frames where her face was clear the flames weren’t so good but this is my favourite from the shoot.

All photos ©The Irish Times

‘Tension’ at Galway Races.

I have a soft spot for this photo which I took for The Irish Times over ten years ago at the Galway Races. I like it not only  because I like Galway and covering the Galway Races but also because it contains what I reckon can be a key ingredient in good photography.

I’ve found it difficult to name or define that ingredient. It’s when things that shouldn’t necessarily work together, actually do. It’s a kind of incongruity when elements that shouldn’t be at ease with each other are, for a moment. It’s  tension.

In this image there are  bright colours on a dull day, (it’s about to lash). There’s contrast between those colours and the bland wall. There are many straight and hard lines running horizontally and vertically through the frame,  but there is also a circle, and there is the softness and odd shapes of people.

There are three sets of people, a couple, a solitary man and then a lady. Both ladies at either side frame the subjects with their blue anoraks and the central subject makes a bold statement with a bright red cardigan and a brolly pointed diagonally. The subjects are close enough but far enough from each other to maintain privacy. They are all looking in different directions. They are both aware and oblivious of each other.

There is order with numbers running from 1 to 7 and a pattern of lines reinforcing this order.  But beneath this order there’s a bit of chaos. The racegoers are a bit flustered as they rush to get their umbrellas out and anoraks on. The guy at left may be trying to convince his wife that it’s time for a pint.

There are no results on the board yet. It’s still early at Ballybrit, there’s still loads of sitting down space. The first race hasn’t started. Something is about to happen. It looks like rain. Meanwhile the sign at the top reads  ‘Going’ is ‘good /  yielding’ .  There’s tension there.


Looking down on people with umbrellas.

Here’s one of the few half decent pictures involving rain I’ve made. It’s taken in 1998 not long after I joined the Irish Times. I took it from the photographers room in the old Irish Times building while having a coffee looking out the window as I waited for my films as they went through the processing machines in the darkroom nearby.

We used to work differently then, pre-digital. We photographed from morning through to late afternoon and then brought all our jobs back to the office and processed the film, scanned the negs , wrote captions and filed. Now we shoot and file from location and then we go onto the next assignment. There was always a great buzz late afternoon among colleagues in those days and loads of slagging as we piled back into the office, to get the work filed before the news conference.

 I’ve probably over done the idea of the pic from a height looking down on subjects, but it can be a useful way of making an ordinary scene look interesting. When the light is dull with grey undefined skies at the top of your viewfinder, shooting from above can give your pic good strong defined edges . It can also make for a decent symmetrical type photo with strong lines and colours that are often invisible if standing on ground level.

Roy Keane leaves Saipan May 2002.

Lots of talk of football this week as we face into our first game of Euro 2012 at the weekend. It’s as good as time as any to run the above May 2002 pic from the archives. The background is that the previous day Republic of Ireland soccer team manager Mick McCarthy had sent captain Roy Keane home from the training centre on Saipan, just nine days before the team’s first match in the tournament.

Keane had complained that the training facilities at the team’s pre-World Cup base in Saipan were “shocking” and “worse than a car park”. There was a big hullabaloo between him and the team manager with the end result being that McCarthy sent him home and called a press conference to announce same .

He said that he and the squad could not take any more disruption. Other senior players from the squad , Niall Quinn, Alan Kelly and Steve Staunton also attended and supported McCarthy’s decision. It was a huge story and the country was divided into pro/anti Keane at the time.

While driving through Kevin Street, Dublin the following day I noticed that Keane’s face had been cut out of a huge advertising hoarding stretched over a building being renovated. I did some pics from across the street and as I did so some of the builders got in on the act. We used the pic in the next day’s Irish Times.

Moneygall May 23rd, 2011

Some pics from 23rd May 2011 when US President Barack Obama visited his ancestral homeland in Moneygall, Co.Offaly . I was lucky enough to be one of a handful of photographers accredited to get into the tiny village on the day. However my pass only allowed access to the landing of Obama in the local GAA grounds and then his departure from there. Strictly speaking I was going to have to stay there until his departure, but managed to talk my way out of there after his landing and made my way up to the village.

At this stage all the attention and media interest was focused on the pub where Obama was meeting his Irish relatives. Colleague Keith Arkins was in the bar for what was going to be the ‘money shot’, Obama having a pint and it did made some great pics. I ended up in the village mingling with the crowd and got a lot of good pics of Barack and Michelle leaning in towards the locals and me. It was a mad day and great fun.

All photos : © The Irish Times


Cowen’s Offaly homecoming May 11th 2008.

This day 4 years ago Brian Cowen TD made a jubiliant return to his constituency of Offaly having been elected leader of Fianna Fail and taken over as taoiseach from Bertie Ahern days previously. It was a day of celebration. The new taoiseach , his wife and two daughters made their way through Tullamore on the back of a large jeep, before adressing the crowds in Tullamore’s town Square and then onto his home town of Clara where he spoke and sang from the back of a truck to the thousands that had assembled to congratulate the local lad done good. I really enjoyed the assignment. There was a wonderful buzz and sense of pride . Pics were happening everywhere . It was one of my first attempts at doing an audio slideshow for so apologies for some elements of the audio being less than perfect.

My Mam and the Richard Avedon connection.

This is what a pair of black and white 6 x7 contact sheets look like. The subject is my Mam and the pics are from about 8 years ago. I sold the camera I took them on yesterday to a very nice man and last night, feeling a bit nostalgic, went rooting through old boxes to find any old negatives or transparencies shot on the camera. I was a big fan of Richard Avedon at the time, especially his work ‘In The American West’ where he travelled across the US photographing anyone he met in small towns on a large format camera against clean white paper backgrounds. The result is an amazing book of photos and extraordinary stories of the lives of ordinary people.

I suppose I was trying to copy that stark monochrome look when I photographed my mother at home in Kerry in our back yard. My Mam was and still is a very willing subject. I think she comes from a generation where there were very few cameras and to be photographed was a sort of an honour. Being recorded also marked a special occasion. In any case the pics mean a lot to me. I’ve marked two from the time that I must get printed, a full frame where you can see all the way to her white shoes and then a profile pic where I like the detail of the wave in her hair.

I also like the the photos of her brushing her hair.We had a tiny medicine cabinet with an oval shaped mirror in our kitchen and I must have seen my mam doing that very thing a million times as I ate my weetabix, or shepherds pie or whatever before flying out the door to school.

When Bertie met Vinnie.

Five years ago today .. Here’s some photos I took for The Irish Times of the launch of the Fianna Fail party general election manifesto which took place in the Mansion House May 3rd 2007. Fianna Fail’s manifesto included a promise to immediately abolish stamp duty for all first-time buyers and promised to increase their mortgage interest relief. Fianna Fail subsequently got through and went into coalition with the Green party. Remember them.

The gig was a dull enough affair until journalist and broadcster Vincent Browne stood up and started asking Bertie Ahern some awkward questions about his personal finances. Someone from Fianna Fail intervened and tried to prevent Browne from speaking, but he got his way and got his hands on the microphone where he recalled that 20 years previously he was among journalists who were obstructed from questioning former party leader Charles Haughey. Bertie squirmed as Vincent landed punch after punch. Despite that, Ahern got a massive round of applause for his answers from the party faithful who had packed the room.

When it was all over Bertie was escorted out a side door by security as Vincent continued to pursue him and ask questions. There was loads of jostling for photos in the mayhem that followed. We all got stuck in. It was great fun and one of the most exciting political press events I’ve attended.


Just looking out at the grim weather in Dublin for May 2nd and remembering one of the last pics I took when working in Australia a few years back. Took this pic of Bondi Beach, Sydney at the end of December 2007. If you know Sydney you’ll know it’s full of beaches, and most of them are less crowded and easier to swim in than Bondi. We rarely swam in Bondi, as our kids were too small at the time for the waves. We used to do the cliff walks from there and eat in a great restaurant, Sean’s Panorama. Wonder if it’s still going. Anyway enjoy the view.

Bertie’s last hoorah.

Four years ago this week … pics of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern taken at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell on April 29th 2008. He posed for photos before boarding the Government Goldstream Jet for a flight to the US. It was his last official trip abroad. A couple of weeks previously he announced he would be standing down as leader of Fianna Fail and Taoiseach. This trip to the States would see him addressing the Joint Houses of the United States Congress and visiting the White House for a private meeting with President George W Bush. Several of the Taoiseach’s close friends and associates made the trip to Washington.

There was a large media presence at the airport and a sense of celebration. It was as if we were applauding Bertie on a job well done and wishing him well on the next part of his journey as he boarded the Lear jet and flew into the great blue yonder.

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