Telling the stories of Ireland’s changemakers through photography

Meet Cormac O’Connell, one of the first contributors of the ChangeX photography volunteer network

Cormac O’Connell is a Dublin-based photographer and one of the first photographers to volunteer for our ChangeX volunteer network, helping us to explore the work of changemakers all around Ireland. His first story about Ray Harte, who is running the Irish Men’s Shed in Portlaoise was shared more than 100 times on Facebook and was the most visited site on ChangeX in July. Here he tells us why he got involved with ChangeX and what about photography interests him most.

Photography played a main role in my life for many many years now. I am interested in all aspects of photography and constantly seek opportunities to explore and practice it. I began photography in the pre-digital era taking photographs on black and white film and developing and printing the negatives in a home darkroom. I now exclusively use digital cameras to photograph in both colour and black and white.

I’m very dedicated to Street Photography. It’s a fascinating and difficult genre and there is an opportunity to see some examples (including a photograph of mine) in an exhibition that runs in the Sol Gallery, Dawson Street, Dublin from August 14th to 27th.

As much as I appreciate what ChangeX and everyone involved with the ChangeX intitiatives does, I personally wouldn’t be someone who’d start a Men’s Shed or organise a Street Feast. But I’m more than happy to contribute something to this good cause by doing what I do best and love: Taking pictures.

I also enjoy the opportunity to practice an aspect of photography new to me: taking photographs in a documentary style but in collaboration with a writer such that a coherent and effective telling of a story results. So far I have photographed two stories and greatly enjoyed the experience.

The challenge is to take photographs that will complement the story text — in a sense to stick to a script — but also, within these parameters, to capture images that are visually interesting. Anyone open to stretching their photographic and collaborative creativity is sure to enjoy this.

Documentary photography is interesting as it can often embrace other genres such as portraiture, and calls for skills in composition that must also comply with the need to convey a story. This year I also contributed a community exhibition to the Five Lamps Arts Festival that looked at life in the Five Lamps area of Dublin over the course of a year.

What interests me most about photography is not the technique or the aestetics of a photograph but the photographer’s intention in shooting a picture, the ‘Why”.

To foster more discussions around this aspect of photography I’ve co-founded theFacebook Group ‘Talking Photography‘ which provides a forum for photographers to talk about their work outside of competitions or explicit criticism.
The impetus for its creation was the observation that photographers like to get together to chat about their photographs which for the most part reside unseen on a computer hard drive or lost in the millions (billions?) of images uploaded to Flickr or social media sites every day.

One of my own favourite pictures – and I could talk for hours about the ‘Why’ here – shows a man at a bus-stop by night. It captures something of any individual’s relationship to a modern city –the combination of fast paced life, bright lights and the sometimes crushing isolation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *