Interactions, Temple Bar
NB: I have just substituted another image for the earlier one.
I am concentrating on night-shots at present, hopefully for publication in a major Irish outlet. My windows are fairly narrow though, since evenings involve shopping, getting the wean ready for bed, helping mum etc. Saturday evenings are best, as Sam and the wean usually head down to Wexford, to stay with her parents till Sunday.
I have been shooting almost exclusively in the southside suburbs, so I figured it was time to head into the city proper. Saturday evening, around 10 p.m. I set off downtown with the tripod, with no clear idea of what I'd shoot or what to expect. It had been some time since I'd done any Dublin city streetscapes, let alone with bustling, frisky, crowds, let alone with a tripod.
I parked in a quiet side street off Molesworth St. and sat in the car for a few minutes, composing myself. Did I really want to get into this, play the part of arty wanker/southside-interloper/spy-with-spindly-thingy, at the edge of (or in the thick of) all that revved-up, fueling-up, overheated bloodmusic of summer? Not really, but I wanted to see what the eye might find to frame, I wanted pictures. I love great street photography (Cartier Bresson, Brassai, Robert Frank, Andre Kertesz, Josef Koudelka, Mary Ellen Mark, Martin Parr etc.). On the other hand, I hate invading peoples' spaces, the arrogant in-your-faceness of paprazzi and their ilk.
I had been up and down Grafton St too often, so I followed the thickening flow into Temple Bar, pausing near the old pillars of The Bank of Ireland on College Green to test the water and see how it felt to set up a tripod and point a lens at passers by. Surprisingly, it didn't feel as odd as I'd expected, and nobody seemed unduly perturbed. I guess Dublin is as photographed as most capitals and its people are used to being framed, by tourists, film-makers or just happy-snappy kids with mobiles or point-and-shoots. Apart from that, I felt strangely safe. An illusion, no doubt. But as soon as I loosened and tightened the legs of the tripod and set them on the pavement I felt as if I'd settled a needle in a very old, very deep groove. I was in a tradition almost as old as photography itself.
So I shifted camp a few times, proceeding farther and farther into the palpitating heart of Temple Bar, Dublin's purple-light district. The needle remained in its uninterrupted groove; I was left unmolested, aside from an occasional harmlessly drunk shape-thrower/poser. Here, amidst the tourists, students and party people, I found another tradition which has been revitalised by the recent stream of immigrants from Eastern Europe: street musicians. These people offered little pools of (visual) stillness in the flux of jackets, shirts, micro-skirts, shoes, trainers and stilettos, stilettos, stilettos... Incidentally, the violinist in the picture above is not, I think, being harassed by the cops. If you look carefully you'll see there's another guy the Guards are talking with, almost masked by the Guard on the right. I like the way there's at least two stories (and probably more) happening here, including the girls (tourists?) with the handycam on the left.
It was interesting to note, in some of the other shots I took, that when we are walking our feet are the stillest part of us; they proceed in pauses, sharp, half-second poses, while the body above the knees shimmies past in its shadowy smear of light, like something Francis Bacon might have painted. These effects fascinate me, which is partly why I am not using a flash (and a flash is also far more invasive of course). I like the blur of passing bodies and what that implies about us. I like the way this is part of a venerable tradition of street photography in Dublin and elsewhere, those old photos in the National Photographic Archive with their cobbled streets etched with stillness, except for perhaps a waiting horse and cab, a group of squatting children agitated into little knots of greyness, barely hinting at the others shouting, laughing, shifting too quickly, sparrowing across the street...