Eric Luke: Photographing unforgettable faces

A new book by the veteran Irish Times snapper gathers together four decades of images

 

How newspaper photographers manage to get any images at all is a mystery to most of us. They work under sometimes chaotic, sometimes overly controlled, conditions in a bid to capture the present as it rushes, bouncing and jostling on a stream of invisible protons, towards the past.

Yet they pull it off over and over again, the daily miracle of storytelling without words. It’s partly a matter of technical mastery: light and sharpness and composition are the basic ingredients of a good newspaper photograph. But a great newspaper photograph is all about people.

Nothing illustrates this better than Eric Luke’s glorious collection of pictures from four decades of work as a press photographer, Looking Back: The Changing Face of Ireland.

It contains politicians and poitíin makers, steam rallies and stunt motorcyclists, farmers and fiddlers. There are familiar faces and new faces and faces so old they might be carved from time itself.

This is not an elegy to a vanishing Ireland, however, but a celebration of Ireland at work and play. Rocking along with Phil Lynott and Freddie Mercury. Struggling up the slippery slopes of Croagh Patrick. Baking brown bread on Tory Island. Selling horses and shooting movies.

Some of the most striking photographs are of children: a youngster scrambling up a bus stop on Pearse Street, a newspaper-seller in Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street, the exquisite study of Luke’s own son Jack.

The sombre side is by no means excluded. The shot of the writer Francis Stuart laid out in his home in Co Clare is a showstopper in every sense of the word, while the section on the North records scenes and emotions that, decades from now, will still be devastating – and are all the more poignant, given that they come just pages after an image of a smiling Queen Elizabeth with then president Mary McAleese on a visit to the war memorial garden at Islandbridge.

Photographs, wrote Susan Sontag in her study On Photography, are about significant details. Eric Luke has assembled a treasure-trove of such details in this beautiful book.

Looking Back: The Changing Face of Ireland is published by O’Brien Press (obrien.ie/looking-back).

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.