The very first portrait I created for Dublin’s Culture Connects is of Laura Larkin. I photographed her in the Clontarf Scout Den: which of course has a photo of the Pope (ahhh Ireland!). Laura is one of those amazing “festival friends” I have in my life. My “festival friends” are probably different to yours, as I mean that I get to see her for a couple of weekends a year and we’re usually both running around in full work mode.
She’s a freelance project manager on lots of cool events and recently she contacted me about some projects she’s running for Dublin City Council ’s Dublin’s Culture Connects programme, The National Neighbourhood. The funny thing is, when she pitched the events to me that she was hoping I would cover, they were all based within my own community.
She was hoping that I’d be up for visiting Fairview park, Saint Anne’s Park and Dollymount Strand, and photographing all these fab community activities that were going to be happening! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was reading her email. I had just gotten back from a wander on Dollymount, but not before a quick visit to the dog park in St Anne’s. I live here, these places are ‘my’ places. Dollymount is my favourite space in the world (I miss it dearly any time I travel). I responded to Laura’s email with so much eagerness!
Photographing people is what I do. The photo part surprisingly takes less of the time, the majority of my time is spent finding out as much about the person as I can. A great portrait will happen when you cross from a feeling of intrusion into intimacy. So I’ll join the groups on their walks and I’ll pick litter with them at the sea side, I’ll sing along with their choirs (albeit badly) and I hope to laugh along with them as we go.
Once I know how a group works and what the true character of the individual is, I can take a proper photo of them. It’s only when you’re in the thick of each event can you snap the most truly representative shot and it’s only when you’ve been given a portrait, can you take one.
I’m looking forward to the journey ahead. I’ll be in my local community centres, parks, scout dens, the Hugh Lane Gallery, The National Library and everywhere in between. I’ll be meeting all my neighbours, young and old…and hopefully I’ll be snapping new faces too. It’s happening all over Dublin (not just my Northside hood) so have a look at the website and JOIN IN.
Ruth Medjber’, photographer, The National Neighbourhood.
With the National Neighbourhood, we want every neighbourhood to know and “own” their city’s cultural resources so we build cultural projects in community settings. We connect artists, groups and villages with libraries, museums and creative places to deepen their understanding of each other and themselves.
The National Neighbourhood spans the Dublin City Council region, and brings together Dublin City Council’s City Library & Archive, the area offices, the City Arts Office and Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, in partnership with National Cultural Institutions (The Abbey Theatre, The National Museum of Ireland, The National Library of Ireland, The National Gallery of Ireland, The National Concert Hall, The Chester Beatty Library, The National Archives and The Irish Museum of Modern Art).0