IN THE FRAME
THE PEOPLE OF THE MUD
“I was invited by the EU Photography Platform ‘Futures’ and PhotoIreland Festival, to create a body of work on Irish Cultural Heritage, over a two-month residency at Cow House Studios in Wexford.
Upon doing research and conversing with Irish friends on various aspects of their shared culture, I became intrigued by their stories of family. How close they were and how extensive they could be. Despite close emotional proximity to each other there was a general unease with being physically close to one another. I wanted to create a large family portrait where I would try to physically knit a group together; a tight-knit family. Taking what we understand as a classical family portrait and, for better or worse, physically.
The series, shot entirely on a medium format film camera, forced me to slow down, to be deliberate and decisive. I gave myself ten shots to make an idea work. I wanted no escape. When the film ends there is undoubtedly the questioning period and the uncertainty that follows, but that reflection period, overall, was a very useful tool for my process. Contrary to my usual way of working, I did not utilise colour to compose a mood or guide an aesthetic. Instead, employing black and white film, I wanted a feeling, displaced in time, and to give the viewer the space to contemplate and decide when these photos were taken. Through relationships built with the team, I was introduced to other individuals who focused on other traditional aspects of Irish culture such as Irish Dancing. Revisiting ideas of previous work, where I’ve paired individuals with various textiles or found materials to create voluminous bodies, I employed the traditional costuming in Irish dance to propose a new national totem.
I have chosen to title the series, The People of The Mud. Wexford, founded by the Vikings, was originally named Veisafjǫrðr, meaning “inlet of the mud flats,” the title being a nod to heritage and continuance. Mud is the mixing of two primal elements: earth and water. It is not static and is constantly taking shape, depending on the physical echo with which it is impregnated. On a practical level, it is also a meteorological and geographical signifier. The People of The Mud is a geographical study of both land and body, identifying points on a map as well as melding bodies; an opportunity to talk about roots, history, heritage, land and the tools used to subdue it.”
Words: Luis Alberto Rodriguez