Fionnuala Mahon is a practicing visual Irish artist who is currently working on documentary travel photography. Her work focuses on the medium of digital photography utilising two distinct practices, documentary and timelapse photography.
My documentary photography is a blend of photojournalism, street photography and travel photography. I focus on the everyday, my camera becoming a tool to reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary and the beauty in everyday life. I stand back, observe and let the scenes reveal themselves. The scenes I capture reveal something new from the existing. Incidental participants sometimes happen to walk into my viewfinder range which adds detail however, I choose to keep them out of focus or obscured so as not to impose upon their privacy. The scene imagined, created and remembered are everyday life at that time and place. My documentary travel photography attempts to bear witness to a reality I encounter and offer the vision I see.
Through the process of timelapse, I use stop motion photography to document the beauty in everyday life over a period of time. Process plays a vital role in the creation of each sequence. I use a tripod for consistency, with an automatic trigger release to ensure continuity in shot, time is not a factor as I let events unfold as they happen, uncontrolled. Similar to my approach in documentary I stand back, wait, deliberately having people out of focus to enable me to freely document events without having to interfere with the scene by making the incidental people that walk through each scenes aware of my presence. People that happen to pass through my scenes add depth and context to the scene. I let the viewer imagine & notice little details to keep them intrigued and watching to see what unfolds. I focus on the subtle details such as wind movement, shadow play and light. The scene that unfolds is everyday life at that time and place.
I studied Visual Communications in National College of Art and Design, Dublin, specialising in photography and as part of this degree I undertook an Erasmus exchange with the University of Ljubljana, in Slovenia. I went on to do a Masters in Multimedia Systems in Trinity college, Dublin.
I have participated in numerous exhibitions in Dublin, Ireland and had a exhibition in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
I have spent the last 14 years traveling and working across the world, taking photographs all the time. Countries visited and lived in, include and not limited to: Argentina, Canada, China, England, Germany, Morocco, Oman, Russia, Spain, Slovenia, UAE, Uruguay, Ukraine and the USA.
My interest in photography stems from a very early age. My first camera was a simple point and shoot, single lens, film camera. I carried it around with me everywhere and even though some of the resulting photographs were not the vision I had intended, I was interested in the process of documenting time. Born in the Burren in Co. Clare I was surrounded by idyllic landscape from an early age and this is where my fascination with the beauty in everyday life originates.
There was, and still is, a ruin across the road from my family home. This ruin intrigued me from my childhood as it was a forbidden domain and also, the house my father grew up in and my grandmother whom I never met lived in. The ruin was left in a state of abandonment with everyday objects such as clocks, photographs, beds and a sewing machine left behind. Through the process of taking photographs continuously over a period of years I pieced together a documentary of the decay and decline of the structure and it’s surrounds. It was the subtle differences that really excited me, though later on the differences were more apparent with the gradual collapse of the internal structure. These were captured in black and white, colour, digital and film photography.
Development, style & approach:
Having focused on the process of documenting a structure over a period of time I began to experiment with documenting everyday life in a more immediate context. I started to work on multiple projects using timelapse, stop motion photography to capture everyday life over a period of time. At this point I moved away from film and began working primarily in digital photography.
I wanted to capture the passing of time whilst maintaining the visual aesthetic of each individual image. I explored staging realistic scenes in which models walked in and out of frame carrying out scripted everyday activities. The result of which was a series of aesthetic images, each of which is an image in it’s own right. The digital medium enabled me to take real-time successive photographs portraying everyday life which when viewed in sequence convey the passing of time.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“What all of this year’s wonderfully diverse grantees have in common is an essential gift for deep photographic story-telling. Frame for frame, their pictures open up whole worlds, but it is the cumulative effect of their work on the projects they are immersed in that commands our attention and informs us as the best narrative reportage must. You might think it would go without saying — but it doesn’t — that what sets these photographers apart is that they understand their task with images as Joseph Conrad described his with the written word: ‘before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything.”
― Philip Gourevitch on Photojournalism and the Magnum Emergency Fund 2014 Grantees (Read more)
“Street photography is an endless pursuit of a perfect moment that you can’t really imagine in your head, but when you see it somehow you realise that’s it… You try and fit into the flow and the energy of the street.”
― Nina Berman
“These images do not aim at making things change, at shaking awareness or at triggering a reaction to a tragic reality. For these reasons, they differ from photojournalism or from other photographic series previously made by Guy Tillim. These images do not strive to tell any truths: they simply bear witness to a reality and offer a vision that, despite the apparent withdrawal operated by the artist, embrace his subjectivity.”
― Lamia Joreige on Guy Tillim (Read more)