The legacy of James Joyce means that the very idea of “Dubliners” carries strong artistic association. What was it about Dublin and its residents that you wanted to capture with these works?
The very nature of ‘street’ photography means that it’s non-conceptual, in the sense that I don’t go out with any particular intention in mind. I just go out and see what the street throws up at you. In this case it’s Dublin, and being from Dublin gives me a certain sense of the place that will be different to that of a non-Dubliner.
Writing about Dublin but living in Paris, both Joyce and Beckett were flâneurs of a city they were exiled from. Joyce is packing in as much detail, description, history and biography as possible but I’d tend to be more drawn towards Beckett’s stripped back approach.
With regard to my own work, thoughts of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy also come to mind, detectives and characters carving out grooves in a city, or Sophie Calle secretly following people she arbitrarily chooses on the street.
It’s a difficult genre to consciously go out and try to express yourself through. For the most part all you can do is go out into the world and see how you react to it. It can be liberating and incredibly frustrating and restrictive at the same time.
Your work follows a long tradition of street photography but abandons many of its favourite tropes, honing in instead on the human figure. What made you want to photograph people in the city as opposed to through portraiture?
I’ve mostly photographed on the street up until now because that’s where everybody is. When you live in a city centre, you have these brief encounters hundreds of times a week.
The vast majority of human interaction tends to be these fleeting moments, but they can be loaded with brief but quite powerful feelings. I tend to experience most of my strongest emotions when I’m out on the street — feelings of disgust, empathy, lust, envy: it can be all be quite highly charged.
And the city itself — its concrete, brick, tarmac, dirt and dust presents as much character as the people: musical beats and textures within the score of the urban whole.
Beyond that, I’m mindful of the unknowability of any stranger you photograph. They say a photographer is always photographing themselves. That’s maybe true. What I do think is that I’m not actually representing the people in the images in any kind of comprehensive way. I suspect most people I photograph would think they were being misrepresented in the images. We shouldn’t confuse or identify the image with the subject of the image.
It’s not possible to learn much about someone from a single frame, but over a series of multiple images I guess it’s possible to learn or feel something of the photographer’s sense of the place, or at least what things looked like when they decided to press the shutter. It’s incomplete and it’s inadequate in terms of learning much about someone, but it’s more than enough in terms of triggering a feeling, thought or maybe even an emotion.