Silence is an act, an order, a state of being, a condition, a desire. It’s a removal of sound, a removal of noise. It’s an absence, it’s an atmosphere. Silence is a physical and psychological space. It is thoughtful, meditative, considerate. It is pensive, tense, present. It’s a pause, it’s a release - something that raises the possibility of interesting and diverse ways to approach it through photography. This Winter theme was introduced in December to both 1st & 2nd years. Some guidelines about how to approach the topic, a selection of visual and literary references are discussed, but the theme is open to the individual’s interpretation and is developed through the Christmas period. Each student’s task was to conceptualize and reinterpret the word ‘Silence’ as an undercurrent of something within their own situation, their own condition, their own life, their own world.
The work, as always with our course, is diverse in personality and in standards. While some students explore the psychological condition of silence through their experiences of isolation and depression, others use the opportunity to explore the state of absence. Of note here is Mark Colgan’s aging Polaroid picture. He reminds us that it is the only picture he has of his sister who died more than twenty years ago. Silence as absence is strong throughout and the character of the image as ‘memento mori’ is a common feature through many of the presentations at our workshop. With Mark’s image we are denied a vision of the person and encouraged to look at the fading on the print, the aging of the artefact. The sense of loss and the passing of time are directly visible as we scan the details of the on the reverse of his precious Polaroid image.
The passing of time and the hidden dimensions within our landscapes are also confronted. Claire Daly’s thoughtful and sensitive mediation on landscapes which were the scenes of sexual assaults are a reminder of the silent histories that are embedded within our familiar environment. The act of photography here makes the invisible visible, and give the landscape a voice to disclose the narratives of its sometimes tragic past. Another common subject is that of the domestic environment and familial relationships. Alisha Doody represents the sense of changing kinship between two sisters. She plays with the notion of the 'silent treatment' within the dynamics of relationships – something we are all familiar with. Perhaps taking Nicholas Nixon’s ‘Brown Sisters’ as a reference point, we also sense the close bond between the two, played out in a very melodramatic and affectionate way. Through use of quoted text we are offered an insight into the emotions, feelings and narratives in and beyond the picture. Vicky Mooney’s tense exploration of her home remind us further of the complexities of the inter-relationships between family members – especially within the limited personal space of the home. Here, we sense the necessity to find solitude. Silence is possibly a need to escape - to shut-out the outside world, to find one’s own breathing space. By focusing on the makeshift, futile barriers between rooms, Vicky creates a sense of disquiet and apprehension – a feeling which is reinforced through her chosen text: “He who does not understand your silence, does not understand your words.”
Further interpretations of the word ‘Silence’ are varied in approach and concept. While Josef Kovac explores the subtle microscopic fragments of the familiar environment – the un-noticed, silent acts and traces of everyday activity, which are amplified through the act of being photographed, Kevin Buckley interprets ‘The Horses’ by Ted Hughes with a poetic sensibility to the fragments of nature. We are reminded with both these works that the photographic eye is not a passive eye, it is very much an active one. The world opens itself up our imagination, and our intention as image makers is always to find hidden meaningful dimensions to the world that we are so familiar with. The concept of theme-based work encourages students to become aware of these dimensions, as well as deal with the complexities of the photographic medium. The value of this, and other themes we introduce, is our willingness to share our experiences of the world - in visual form, to open up debate about who we are and how we perceive the world we inhabit. It’s a nurturing process that, in many ways, has always been about going beyond the silent surface of things.
"...a silent cry a silent weep a prisoner of my mind fighting to escape"
- Mandy Kavanagh
|c. Mark Colgan|
|c. Vicky Mooney|
| c. Kevin Buckley|
"...grey silent fragments of a grey silent world"
|c. Alisha Doody|
|c. Sharon Flanagan|
|c. Claire Daly|
|c. Paul Bolger|
|c. Josef Kovac|
Text: Martin Cregg (2nd Year Tutor)