Tucked among the cobblestone streets lined with drunken revelers and street musicians in Dublin’s Temple Bar district is a modern, minimalist storefront housing Photo Ireland’s latest project: a comprehensive library of photo books, magazines, and zines available to the public. The project is in residence at the Black Church Print Studio for an undecided amount of time. Originally the space was supposed to house the library only for the month of September, but if you go in and chat up the volunteers they’ll happily proclaim, “We haven’t gotten kicked out yet.”
When you first walk into the Library Project you’re confronted by a wall of the staff’s curated picks, divided between “Highlights” of the collection and “Irish Photobooks.” To one side of the main display is an assortment of zines, sourced from Ireland and abroad; to the other side a colorful table of subscription magazines boasts such names as Foam, Waterfall, White Fungus, and It’s Nice That, among others. “Not for sale” labels are stuck beside these shelves and tables, an obvious response to patrons who (understandably) want to take the publications home with them. A small table in the back room has been installed to accommodate the desire for acquiring books from the library, where a handful of the Irish photo books are available for purchase.
Holy Bible by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin
At first glance Broomberg and Chanarin’s photo book looks no different from a standard copy of the iconic King James Bible, the kind you might find in a motel bedside drawer. Once the volume is flipped open, however, the joint project with the Archive of Modern Conflict emerges. The two artists scoured the archive for photos of the kinds of violence, calamity, and absurdity that appear in power structures within the bible, as well as in contemporary society. The result is the biblical text overlaid with a series of images varying from scenes reminiscent of a David Lynch–like movie still to images of complete devastation and destruction. Almost every image is accompanied by annotated passages, as though the duo took a red pen to their copy, corresponding to the theme for which the image was chosen. Even lacking any introduction or orientation, the project is accessible without feeling overstated. The successful combination of beauty and intent earned Broomberg and Chanarin the Dummy Book Award at this year’s Paris Photo.
WE WANT TO SEE WHAT YOU SEE? They pleaded.
They explained that they wanted to understand how the
people of the island nation saw the world.”
The Irish online zine Esc, named for the escape key on the keyboard, has taken print form with its catalogue zine for the show Photo_Esc Abroad. Esc founders Aine Belton and cousins Jessica and Stephen Maybury brought together a group of Irish photographers living and working abroad to exhibit in the show turned zine. A combination of interiors, exteriors, and natural and man-made landscapes fill the pages of the bright orange pamphlet. Artists include Philip Sliney, Kate Kelly Murphy, Eoin Comiskey, Erin Quinn, Billy Kenrick, Mark Murray, Louise Scott, Aine Belton, and Maureen Trainor.
Concresco by David Galjaard
“Some people think Albania is doomed; others think it was born under a lucky star. I think the question is more complicated than that.”
—Ismail Kadare, The Palace of Dreams
David Galjaard is a big deal. That’s essentially what my new friends at the Library Project are telling me. In the past year he has shown with Cristina de Middel, whose gorgeous catalogue The Afronauts is widely regarded as being at the top of its field, and Concresco brought home Photo Ireland’s Festival Portfolio Award.
The bright red cover of Concresco features a raised Braille-like outline of Galjaard’s native Albania. Inside, two-page color-saturated spreads depict scenes of rags and tattered shoes, graffiti-covered walls, ground strewn with fake flowers, and scenic fields of sheep near abandoned bunkers built by the Albanian Stalinist leader Enver Hoxha during the Cold War. Every few pages inlets of text tell stories of contemporary Albanian history from entrepreneurs, journalists, retired construction workers, and professors looking into their country’s past on the brink of its future.
The Time of Dreaming the World Awake by Yvette Monahan
This year’s Photo Ireland Festival Portfolio Award-winner begins with a quote from Jules Verne: “The earth does not need new continents, but new men.” What follows is a series of images of rural landscapes in the South of France littered alternately with broken-down cars, tired old men, and a few sparse horses. Several of the images feature a mythic-looking male figure, first appearing with what appear to be animal ears, and later with a horn emerging from the middle of his golden-locked head. Despite this figure’s jarring presence, the most striking of all the images is the composition of a naked couple lying in a shallow bed of water. The image bridges the gap between the painfully realistic scenes of rural life and the fantastical presence of the horned man. Like Shakespeare’s lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the couple seems on the brink of our world and the next in this modern Arcadia.
Postscript: During the author’s most recent visit, the Library Project was being dismantled.