last and first

I'm finished college, my grad show is done, and I will be graduating in November with a first class honours degree. What. A huge part of me really wishes I had used this blog as a proper documentation of my final year in college. Now that it's over, while there's massive relief and satisfaction in knowing I never have to set foot in IADT again, I do miss it, and I do feel a little lost. 

For those of you who didn't make the grad show, it was good, I guess. The college messed it up for us a little, but I put out work that took a lot of bravery on my part but was ultimately something I am incredibly proud of. The work, as many of you know, was made in Sheaf House, where I receive treatment for my bipolar disorder. 

Reflecting on my college experience, I can see now that even long before my mental health was the primary focus of my work (/life), it affected my way of working to the point where I feel my learning was seriously hindered. Anxiety in particular ruined my 4 years in college - skipping classes, missing important lessons, being too embarrassed to ask about the things I missed, realising things I missed had a massive knock on affect further down the line in my practical work and knowledge... I feel like I fucked myself over a lot. I ruined a lot of opportunities and chances that arose out of studying photography and being surrounded by such knowledgable people. 

I never once used the photo printers in college. In my 4 years, I have always managed (perhaps on purpose) to avoid digital printing on photo paper. My final year exhibition graduate degree work was printed on tracing paper on my home printer. I was so anxious about my lack of knowledge around professional digital printing, that I took the potentially degree-ruining risk of printing my grad show on an inkjet home printer. What the FUCK. The more I say it out loud, the worse it sounds. It doesn't even stop there though. I bought my frames in IKEA - I spent no more than €50 on them, and I mounted and framed all the images myself. I sat in my bedroom at my desk, with a pair of cotton gloves on and framed my exhibition prints. If my tutors knew.... Ahhhhhh.

It was a risk, but it was also in many ways my only option. Aside from being broke, I was straight up too anxious to let people know that at that point in my photographic education I had never made a "real" print, or worked with a printing house, or a framers, or well, anything. What did I learn though? How can it sound like I just did nothing for the last 4 years and somehow miraculously got away with it? 

I think it comes down to the fact that I don't let anyone influence my work.. At no time did I hand anything over to someone else to print or mount or frame for me. I did everything myself, and when making a project as personal as mine was, I think that was the key factor. I am the only pesron that was involved in any aspect of the realisation of "room 3". It was all me.

It's in the small, hand-torn pieces of tape barely holding the print in place, making it look like it could fall at any moment. It's in the washi tape's resemblance to plasters or band-aids. It's in the presence of The Chair, which was taken from Sheaf House for the installation, the chair I sat in for 2 hours while I was being assessed on my first visit there.

And diving fruther into it, it's in the quiet contradictions in the images, the duality, disorder and tension which occurs. It's blinds that are broken and obscuring the outside world, light that splits a room in two, the one odd chair in a stack which can cause such subtle, unnerving disorder. 

It's in the broken line of literal ups and downs which make the viewer work their way through highs and lows, the mismatched frames and mounts - enforcing a sense of unease and discomfort. And ultimately, it's in the words (see below). The words I wrote which outline an honest outpouring of the self, words that perhaps the viewer may feel they're not meant to be reading, me sharing maybe a little bit more than I should.

I, myself, and my mental state saturate the work, and that's all I could have ever hoped for with this project. Making this work had to serve as a way for me to navigate myself through this ongoing experience, and allow others into a space in which they can partake in this too.

I couldn't be more proud of myself with this one, even if the whole thing came together in the least professional photographic way, it doesn't matter, I did it. Like, to go through my first 3 years of college barely passing, struggling desperately with my mental health, contemplating dropping out, contemplating suicide, having such an awful, awful time and then to actually finish college happy? I'm so proud of myself, I really am like I don't even care.

If you missed it this time around, don't worry! I am showing this work as part of the PhotoIreland festival this month in an exhibition which opens in Steambox on the 21st. Further info can be found here.

No promises of more frequent posts this time around, I have no idea what will happen to this blog as time passes, all I know is that I like knowing it's here for me when I want to reflect on something like this. Hopefully you all like that too. Until next time!


"my work is always closely aligned with and often a direct representation of my current mental state. i suffer with bipolar disorder, and for the last 18 months my life has been in turmoil. the tallaght centre for mental health, or sheaf house, has witnessed and housed this period of time. this work is concerned with my personal experience of this space as i move forward through the ongoing treatment of my illness. the piece explores the capacity a space can have in the preservation of a time, a feeling, or a state of mind. sheaf house will always be somewhere that has seen my lowest of lows and highest of highs, through both recovery and relapse. when photographing sheaf house i focused on capturing the nuances of duality, duplicity and disorder that existed both in my mind and in the space itself. through the chaos of my mind, this space has remained one that is calm and still, full of absence, a constant contradiction. for me, sheaf house remains a place which is both clinical yet homely, welcoming yet sterile, safe but full of uncertainty."