Notes from Ireland: 2015-2017

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I traveled to Ireland for the first time in May 2015, returned for a second time in August 2017, and a third time to conduct a photo workshop in September 2018. Before my first Ireland visit in 2015, I had visited England many times, first in the 1970s, and then after my older daughter moved to London in 2007. But, in all the trips to the British Isles, I never traveled to Ireland. My paternal lineage is Irish and I began to feel derelict in duty to have been so close, yet I never visited the land of my forebears. Though that first trip was motivated by an ancestral calling and no small measure of ghost chasing, Ireland immediately became a photographic inspiration.

All of Ireland is beautiful, lush and gritty at the same time. The Irish countryside is one of the world’s treasures. Inhabited by mankind for thousands of years and fought over by warring tribes throughout that history, yet the contested landscape remains beautiful, serene, austere. The Irish continue to inhabit it with vigor. Tending their sheep. Toiling in the fields. Growing barley and oats. The Irish towns, from the quaint villages to the larger cities, are equally compelling. Stone streets lined with a jumble of modest houses, storefronts, and pubs, form the background to a vibrant street life. The frequently brisk, wet, wind beneath a veil of clouds and fog is not so much an impediment, as a rationale for imbibing in the pubs through the evenings. From city to countryside, Ireland is a remarkable experience. It resonated for me.

This portfolio, as its name implies, consists of visual notes and studies on the extraordinary subject of Ireland. Currently it’s a work in progress. I chose to photograph exclusively in black and white, which I found to be appropriate to the weather and the stubborn, relentless perseverance of the Irish people. There is a monochromatic mood to the place.

—Richard Sexton