In The Frame: Following Ulysses – Deirdre Brennan

Posted June 15, 2022 in Arts & Culture Features

BIMM nov 13 – dec 15 – Desktop


Following Ulysses

Deirdre Brennan

“John Oliver Nugent sits in the sun under the statue of James Joyce in North Earl Street in Dublin. Looking so dramatic, he would have been quite fitting in one of Joyce’s novels. Originally a bus driver in Dublin, John started to grow a beard after his marriage broke down in 1982. He could not control his emotions, so he let everything go, including his hair. Joyce would have had plenty of material in John’s story to cast him as a character.

Following Ulysses was always a body of work unto itself, using the structure and style of Ulysses to consider modern Dublin, not a nostalgic illustration of the original text. Therefore, I was never that interested in talking a picture of the James Joyce statue. Until, one day I saw John Oliver sitting with Joyce in the sun. The gentleman walking into the left hand frame changes the narrative of the photograph into Joyce’s Everyman Hero. John Oliver was also very happy with the photograph. I had to carry the prints around in my bag as I did not have an address until I eventually ran into him again.

Following Ulysses is the culmination of a 10-year photographic project. After my first reading of Ulysses, I was inspired to use the structure of James Joyce’s novel to explore the themes of culture, politics, character and social struggle in modern Dublin. Each photograph corresponds to one of the 18 episodes in Ulysses.

In keeping with the style of the novel I wanted my photographs to reflect both a social and magical realism. I wanted my photographs to recreate the feel, language and mood of Dublin today by retracing the wanderings of Leopold Bloom and the other characters in Ulysses.

I often think what Joyce would make of these photographs. I think he might like the composition and the stories behind the images. After all, Milly Bloom was an apprentice photographer. I would like to thank him for providing me with a lifetime of inspiration. I am thinking already about volume II.

Finnegan’s Wake is also beckoning.”

Images, Divine & Human: Following Ulysses by Deirdre Brennan is published by Hi Tone Books with an accompanying text by Nuala O’Connor. €25, limited edition of 500.



The key to the city. Straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter.