In the 60’s, I was living in London, singing for my supper. I went over to Ireland for a traditional music festival, and was bowled over by the music. I returned again in 1973 after I had at last found photography. Pictures were my music now, and the camera was so much smaller than a guitar. Again I went to hear the music, and again I fell head over heels in love with the place and the people. For a people are the place, even though the beauty of the land is astounding.
I loved the gentleness, the sweet shyness, the warm welcomes and farewells, the soda bread warm from the hearth, and always a sup to eat and drink. Guinness fresh as mother’s milk, all the nutritional benefits ofdark amber whiskey. The pleasure they had in welcoming a stranger, who left a friend.
Each time I return I see the changes, the ugly noisy modern world , butI seek out the old ways; people making their own music; the high art of conversation in a good pub. Milk churnsdriven by donkey cart to the dairy; gathering the hay; fair days in small towns. These are mostly gone now, replaced by machines, co-ops and auctions
Each visit makes me more driven to record this traditional life. Like those who collect stories from the shannachies, or storytellers, I am collecting moments. For who will remember the old ways?
I think of my work in Ireland as a love poem: a celebration of the beauty of the land, the warmth of her people, the simplicity of the old ways and traditions, the humor and conviviality, the sharp wit and black moods, the kindness.
Today, our vision of that country is colored by the violence of the North or the visual cliches: freckled kids in Irish sweaters; all those green, green fields. It is an older, gentler Ireland I am documenting, a wild and passionate beauty that I feel is the last place on earth.
I want to get it down now, while there are still people who remember a time that was, places that were, that will never be again.