For Irish photographer Daragh Muldowney, the inspiration for his latest collection of work, a close-up study of Ireland’s coastal rock pools, sand formations and shells, began as a child.
Growing up just a short trip from the coast, Mr. Muldowney came to appreciate the beauty concealed in the details along the shoreline, a quality which he says deeply influenced his latest exhibition in Atlanta and photo book, “Jewellery Box – Ireland’s Hidden Gems”.
Using just an old-school Canon film camera and bagful of lenses, with no filters or artificial lighting to speak of, the 41-year-old photographer visited each of Ireland’s 17 coastal counties via campervan over more than a year of travels.
Sometimes braving the rain, wind and other elements for weeks in just a wetsuit and a pair of kneepads to get the right shot, Mr. Muldowney says Jewellery Box reflects well on his evolution as an artist, as someone that focuses on the beauty in the little things – the things most miss upon first glance.
“I think it’s a really good metaphor for the rock pools because they are so beautiful, and what I’m trying get is show people there’s so much beauty just under their toes if they just stop and look,“ Mr. Muldowney told Global Atlanta at the exhibition’s debut in Atlanta Nov. 8.
“To me, it’s like jewelry for the soul, which is the most important type, something that sings to you and warms you on the inside by seeing something beautiful,“ he continued. “And it’s not just the rock pools, all my work is about that, showing people detail that’s often overlooked.”
For example, in one of the photographer’s favorite pieces of the collection, “Pals?”, two sea urchins are locked together, spine to spine, in a fight over a particularly rich feeding ground. The scene immediately grabbed Mr. Muldowney’s attention at first, but it wasn’t until Mr. Muldowney and a marine biologist later analyzed the photos that he fully understood the dynamics of the scene.
The lack of more than a basic understanding of the coastal ecology was intentional, however. To keep a childlike perspective on his subjects, he focused solely on their aesthetic value.
“There’s really a sense of adventure and exploration as a child when you’re staring at the pool – the tide goes in and then it goes back out and there’s new stuff with every new tide,” he said. “I tried to recreate that space and visit that place again as an adult with a childlike eye to view them in an innocent way.”
Since the photographer began exhibiting his work in Dublin in 2002, later founding his company Dúlra Photography in 2003, he’s traveled the world looking for inspiration, vising Morocco and Iceland for his first themed exhibition five years ago.
But his American tour of Jewellery Box began with a proof-of-concept video he made while wrapping up his journey around the coast. Only later did he pitch it to the consulate community in America as a way to sponsor his travels.
In addition to the showing last week in the Buckhead office of advertising agency Fitzgerald+CO Inc, the now 36-photo exhibition will soon travel to Boston, Chicago, Washington and San Francisco with potential viewings in Dallas and Birmingham, Ala., still to be announced.
“I just thought it was a wonderful slice of Irish culture that’s maybe a little bit different than what people usually get to see,” said Paul Gleeson, the Irish consul general based in Atlanta, who helped organize and sponsor the exhibition here. “It really brought home to me, I guess, how much role imagery plays in our concepts of Ireland and what we think of Ireland.”
To see more photographs from the Jewellery Box collection, click here.