Dublin Before the Tiger – a long-term, high resolution study of a European capital before gentrification
“My work has always been long-term, and what could be called “psychogeographical” in nature. It is about urban and rural spaces, the way people make use of them, the traces they leave, their ghosts, hovering after they are gone.
Historically, there is a long-standing tradition of depicting Dublin’s cityscape in elaborate vedute, when, in the Georgian era, a newfound sense of urban space and civic pride sparked interest in showing the city as communal space.
But in the 1980’s, when I started my project, much of the inner city had all but vanished from public perception.
Brutal, polluting traffic cut the city in two, and the Liffey Quays, once the showpiece of a proud Georgian city, had devolved into a ragged jumble of antique shops, greasy spoons and car repair places.
While referencing the era of painted vedute, I focused on ensembles of buildings, that had gone through a variety of uses, presenting a rich layer-cake of mercantile and habitational history.
I developed a meticulous, high resolution approach to the documenation of these places, choosing to elevate the vernacular and mundane, to show the familiar in a way that defamiliarises.
The large images were composited from scans of up to 12 medium format negatives, matched and rectified, and combined to yield otherwise impossible-to-achieve views of rather dense and built-up spaces. This approach allows for finely detailed, huge prints, and lends the images a slightly abstracted, larger-than-life quality.
That richness, that level of detail, was important to me, since it is precisely the quality that is often missing when we turn to period photographs to re-imagine the past.
I wanted to go beyond what is commonly available: to provide an unprecedented level of accuracy, such as a future historian, set builder, or writer might crave.
Like a one-man google car (with a heart), I managed to preserve the inner city, long before digital stitching techniques were invented.
The Joyce of a future generation could actually take a stroll down the Liffey, to experience through my photographs the Dublin that was.”
Please note: all images and texts are protected by Copyright and belong to the Artist.