It has been fascinating to follow someone I once knew first through the kayaking and outdoor scene in Ireland, moving on to the world of photography and starting to create images of the places I love, or places I want to fall in love with. First these photos started to appear here and there almost sneakily, slyly beckoning to be noticed, but pretty soon they were there to manifest the artist behind them with his own distinctive style.
As I am cycling here in Ireland at the moment, slowly making my way by bicycle along the 2500 kilometres of Wild Atlantic Way from Derry up north to Kinsale down south, I revisited a conversation I had with Photographer Brian Cooney late last year explaining his motivations, inspiration and obviously why not only Wild Atlantic Way but Ireland is such an amazing place to visit. Not that I need convincing, but what about you?
Meet Brian Cooney, a Dublin-bred fine art photographer who now resides in the small rural village of Easkey in the west coast of Ireland, right along the Wild Atlantic Way. For Brian, photography is a form of self-expression with a deeper meaning. Although he is careful to label himself, fine art photography, where the photographer produces art with the camera to tell an interesting story, whether it is related to landscape or people, is something he relates with.
His images are both beautiful portraits of Irish landscapes and timely descriptions of what is going on, or not, in Ireland, and his personal story is one of having the guts to change your direction completely and take the chance to follow your dreams and ambitions. “I could never do that, this is the path I have chosen” is a sentence he has repeated few times in his past, only to reverse that sentiment later by leaving behind his secure future in the family business and following a different path altogether.
The interest in photography for Brian grew through travel, and after working in the family business straight from school and training as an electrician, he headed to South America. There, shooting lots of slides, he enjoyed the way photography made him slow down and look. Rewind several years later and at forty, realising that his heart was really not in what he was doing, Brian started to look for other alternatives. Photography, was a natural choice.
Now, while working on his degree from the Open College of Arts in UK, Brian runs photography workshops and courses in the locations he loves around Ireland and even without him saying it’s easy to see – he’s bursting with enthusiasm.
What inspires Brian the most is everyday life, and through photography he wants to make something interesting out of the everyday and mundane life. Many of the projects that interest him are very personal, and photography has let him rebuilt and see the change over time in places that are familiar to him.
For Brian, it’s all about Ireland. “You don’t have to travel half way to the other side of the world. I think it’s the same advice that goes for writers: photograph what you know”.
What is so unique about Ireland, then, for a photographer? “It’s the history, culture and people. People coming here have been blown away by how approachable the Irish are. And I love he sea, it’s big part of it as it is ever changing. Also, nobody really comes here for the suntan. For a photographer it’s the amazing light, and the fact that you can have four seasons in a day…”
According to Brian the Wild Atlantic Way has been a great success as it is already bringing, and will bring even more business and people to the part of Ireland that is so incredibly beautiful, but that has been badly hit by the recession.
I really wanted to find out what are the locations for a photographer along this scenic road to add to my ever going list of places to stop, but Brian had difficulty in naming just one or two. “There are great photographs everywhere, all you have to do is to be open to see them. Among my favourite places are Black Head in the Burren – especially with a big westerly swell rhythmically beating up onto the rocks and filling all the rock pools with spray. Or just after a big shower passes by and as the dark stormy clouds clear and you’re covering in the shade of the old light house you see a beautiful rainbow on the rocky headland behind you as the sun comes out again. The Aran Islands are one of my favourite places in Ireland. My best sunrise this year was watching the sun light stretch itself across the green fields on Inis Mór and light up the stone walls one by one. Even if I didn’t have a camera with me I would have rejoiced at the sight of it and to be privileged to see it. I also love the mix between the traditional and the modern on the Islands – we often want to escape modernity for the wild, but there is always a balance to be struck and the Islands do it well I think.”
What can I say. I’m already gutted that I won’t have enough time to see it all, but at the same time I’m sure we will find plenty of spectacular locations to practise our photography skills along the route, if we just stop and look around us.
What does living the Skimbaco Lifestyle mean for Brian then? “Rather than any one thing, it is when you give what ever you are doing 100% , and no matter what comes your way or how difficult it feels you keep on going and don’t give up.”
To see more of Brian’s photography or to sign up to one of his workshops in Ireland, head over to www.briandcooneyphotography.net and to read more about this adventure along Wild Atlantic Way, have a look at all the recent posts in Destination Unknown.
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