Street Photography- The Dublin Edition
Of all nations, Ireland is perhaps one of the most idealised and subject to the most clichés. Any attempt to understand Ireland from an international view point requires a certain stamina and determination to wade through the cultural debris of leprauchans, politics and tourism strategies.
As an Irish woman myself, I hadn’t quite appreciated this image of Ireland as fictionalised as Lilliput or Atlantic until emigrating the country a few years ago. However, the nation and its inhabitants of the capital city Dublin have recently become the subject of a fascinating project by photographer Ruth Guest who set herself the mission of documenting her home town- one street portrait at a time. Needless to say, the images differ from the Ireland known on an international stage by postcards, St Patrick’s day parades or, God forbid, Jedward.
The eclectic portfolio is testament to the real variety of Dublin. One day, followers of the project will be treated to images of the door man of an exclusive establishment in town, but they are just as likely to see pugs or builders, the next day.
Growing up in the Irish countryside as a child, Dublin held the irresistible mystique of being the capital city glimpsed only on family trips every few years. Guest’s portraits portray the city in all its liveliness. I find myself returning to Humans of Dublin again and again- for inspiration, daily oddities and a faint nostalgia for Ireland that I get having emigrated a few years ago.
Ruth Guest very kindly agreed to share with Fawn Review the process behind setting up a cult street photography following.
When I ask her what her first photograph for the project was, the memory is a very vivid one, “It was outside a sex shop in Temple Bar. The man, Seamus (from Mexico supposedly), was browsing at the products in the window, and I thought he’d be a great character to start off with.”
For someone who has gone on to photograph scores of people for the project, Guest refreshingly admits to a nervous start saying of the experience, “He was nice, but slightly creepy. Because of my nerves of approaching a stranger and asking to take their photo, I lied and said it was for a college project.”
Guest’s personal favourite photo is that of nun’s waiting at a bus stop in the centre of Dublin on O’Connell Street. The scene is a traditionally Irish one which I recognise from my own childhood. It is an oddly timeless image, we only get the impression of the twentieth century from the man behind them checking his phone and the modern metal bin before them. The scene is one of typical Irish eccentricity.
Whilst many of her photographs are posed portraits, Guest prefers unplanned snapshots like the nuns on O’Connell Street, “I always prefer photographs to be ‘in the moment’ but when I’m working on HOD [Humans of Dublin], I have to approach people to talk to them, to find out about their lives, and when I go to take their photo they usually tense up and can’t be natural at all”.
The street photograph is a junction between the posed and the contrived-but the junction is far from neat. It lies somewhere half way between a traditional painted portrait and a large street scene. But perhaps this is were the allure lies, in street portraits providing a posed version of events, but a pose which we know lasts only moments and won’t be captured again.