“This collection catalogues the personality and spirit of the city, not based on how it is marketed for outsiders, but by looking directly at the people who live here.” Barry Delaney’s new collection preserves a part of Dublin that is recently gone.
“These pictures are at eye level and on the level.”
Dublin changed a lot between 2006 and 2016. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different version of what that change was and whether it was good for the city. People might talk about the new buildings we have, the changing ethnicity, the gentrification, whether the city has lost its soul, whether it is more vibrant or whether it’s still a dump. Barry Delaney was there throughout that period and was paying attention the whole time.
This collection catalogues the personality and spirit of the city, not based on how it is marketed for outsiders, but by looking directly at the people who live here. It captures moments where people are being themselves, as well as the poses that Dubs are known for. The cocksure stare, the front, the attitude, the scepticism. The bullshit detector that is always on and pointed towards the camera.
The portraits have an authenticity that challenges the viewer and demands, ‘Are you for real?’ But these are not intimidating pictures. There is a playfulness there, as though we are being tested before being accepted.
Aside from their authenticity, Barry’s pictures are also intimate. It’s hard to believe that Barry could show up as a stranger with his camera and gain such access, win such trust from his subjects.
It has something to do with Barry’s sensitivity, and his sincere interest in people; his curiosity about their struggles and his awe at how people manage to keep going in spite of everything. I think his subjects pick up on that. They don’t seem to feel showcased or under study. These pictures are at eye level and on the level.
As a city, Dublin sits in the background: a patchwork of areas featuring the same houses and flats, the same crap paint, the same old everything. Except that it’s not. Many of these buildings are no longer there now. Same with the communities and the young people who were their heartbeat. This collection preserves a part of Dublin that is recently gone. Not gone long enough to be noticed or missed, yet too far gone to preserve. Thankfully we had artists like Barry Delaney there to see and appreciate what was happening at the time.
This collection then, is many things. A record of a city and the people who live in it. An invitation to a staredown. An unfiltered portrait of childhood and adolescence on its own terms. But it is also a glimpse into what it means to be part of a city. That is, to live a life that, as John Peel once put it, is ‘always different, always the same.’
Words: Rónán Hession
Photos: Barry Delaney