Photo Essay: The Look of the Irish: Tony O’Shea

2953Good Friday, North Inner City, Dublin 1984 (1)

Photo: Good Friday, North Inner City, Dublin 1984 (cropped. full image below)

Four decades of work by the Irish photographer whose dignified images, according to his former editor Colm Tóibín, offer ‘a hesitant window into the soul’

Look of the Irish: the communities captured by Tony O’Shea – in pictures

All images by Tony O’Shea

The Light of Day is a photobook retrospective of Tony O’Shea’s work, spanning four decades from 1979 to 2019 was published on 13 November by RRB Photobooks and the Gallery of Photography Ireland

27 October 2020 | The Guardian

Painted pony, Smithfield, Dublin, 1989

Often warmly humorous, the images are unified by his subjects’ dignity and lack of self-consciousness. Collectively, they demonstrate O’Shea’s ability to combine the bleak and the joyful

Good Friday, Seán McDermott Street, Dublin 1983/84

The Light of Day is a photobook retrospective of Tony O’Shea’s work, spanning four decades from 1979 to 2019. It will be published on 13 November by RRB Photobooks and the Gallery of Photography Ireland


Good Friday, North Inner City, Dublin 1984\

The majority of the photographs were taken in Dublin and County Kerry and, in spectacles of religious processions and marches, marking significant events of the recent past, convey a sense of community

Divorce referendum protest at the GPO, Dublin, 1986

This is the first retrospective book of work by O’Shea. A large number of the images are previously unpublished


Delivering fuel, North Inner City, Dublin, 1987

From city streets to the remote countryside, O’Shea’s photographs document the spectrum of public life across Ireland and Northern Ireland

Dublin Bus, 1989

As an editor at the magazine In Dublin in the late 1970s, Colm Tóibín sent O’Shea out on Dublin buses to capture the life of the city from the upper deck. Read more by Tim Adams in the Observer on this image of two boys and a kestrel here

Welcoming home the Irish team after reaching the quarter-finals of Italia ’90, Dublin, 1990

Ireland broke a record by making it to the quarter-finals without winning a match in normal time. They were eventually beaten 1-0 by the hosts, Italy

Christmas Turkey Market, Mary’s Lane, Dublin 1991

O’Shea’s photographs take in everyday life in markets and on bus journeys

Reopening of crossing on the Leitrim-Fermanagh border, 1993

‘Tony O’Shea is interested in the moment where the ritual and the casual face each other in the complex light that comes from Irish skies. He likes gatherings and public spaces. And he is watching for the second when, even if his subjects are performing, a guard has been let down, and the camera becomes an uneasy, tentative, hesitant window into the soul’ – Colm Tóibín

Day of action to reopen a border road closed by British security forces near Kiltyclogher, County Leitrim 1993

‘He seeks images of individual loneliness and isolation, figures in a state of reverie and contemplation, or figures in a state of excitement’ – Colm Tóibín

25th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, Derry 1997

An exhibition of O’Shea’s work at the Gallery of Photography Ireland in Dublin is planned for early 2021

James Porteous

James Porteous is an author, photographer and researcher. Clipper Media News is a daily publicatioin featuring news and views you can use.

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