Without knowing a great deal about the place outside of Joyce, I just assumed I would like Dublin. The image that existed in my mind had it looking rather more like Edinburgh – an impressive Celtic capital with imposing and distinct buildings, a place whose monuments exuded the cultural strength of Ireland, a place whose buildings brimmed with character and identity – that much stereotyped Irish blend of larrikin and literary intellectual. Yet, upon visiting Dublin, I found myself entirely nonplussed to the point of grave disappointment and in the end, I didn’t like the place very much at all. Perhaps it was my state of mind, and such can be the nature of travel, yet it all felt mismatched somehow, as though no real thought had gone into building the place. Trinity College and the Book of Kells were truly amazing, but the city itself had a rather desultory air and in my wanderings I never found a place that made me want to stop and sit and soak up the atmosphere and beauty.
Fortunately, however, I was travelling with my tripod on this occasion (not my mother’s three-legged cat) and spent a lot of time shooting at night. This was November 2007, just after the financial crisis had struck, and whilst I’m not sure it was directly related, there seemed to be a lot of people sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin. Again, my ill-informed preconceptions about Ireland, a cloudy awareness of its history of struggle and poverty, led me to believe that this might be par for the course as much as it might be due to the Celtic Tiger’s golden run coming to an abrupt halt. Still, it gave me something to think about, and focussed my photographic attention on the situation of the homeless people.
This shot was taken on the appropriately named Ha’Penny Bridge, over the river Liffey. Being early evening, there were a lot of people on their way home from work in suits, making it an ideal time to capture the contrast between rich and poor. As is so often the case with photos involving passers-by, it was a matter of patience to get a worthwhile shot – of standing with the remote in hand and shooting whenever the balance of people in the composition seemed right. And, as is so often the case when shooting unwitting subjects, it was just another case of blind luck that the figures climbing the stairs should frame the central subject so neatly and give me a good result. Needless to say, there were quite a considerable number of mis-hits either side of this one, a reminder that it’s often worth sitting on a scene and shooting a hundred plus shots, until the elements line up just right and go for gold.