Boo George putting Dollymount Strand on the fashion map

Meet the Bray-born fashion photographer selected to shoot his latest Emporio Armani campaign

Shot from Boo George's latest campaign for Emporio Armani shot on Dollymount strand

Shot from Boo George's latest campaign for Emporio Armani shot on Dollymount strand

Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 01:00

Fashion photographer Boo George is a Co Wicklow native who Georgio Armani selected to shoot his latest Emporio Armani campaign. For the glamorous location he chose Dublin’s Dollymount Strand, better known to locals as Dollier.

The shoot took eight-days and a production crew of 100 people. As well as photographing still shots, Boo made films for digital billboards in Milan, London and New York.

His name is a shortened version of “Boo Boo peach of the beach” something the snapper’s mother used to coo to him as baby. Pet names run in the family. The middle child of three, his younger brother Patrick is known as Tricky and his sister Cathy as Shesh.

When Boo left school he did a media course in Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT)

where he discovered photography. He followed that with a foundation course in the Sallynoggin College of Further Education and then a scholarship meant a move to Middlesbrough in the UK and the Cleveland College of Art and Design.

There he was introduced to the work of some of the world’s great social documentarists and photojournalists: Sebastião Salgado and his images of Brazilian miners; Magnum photographer Bruce Davidson whose most famous shots are of Harlem in the 1960s; war photographer Don McCullin, best known for his work in Vietnam and Northern Ireland, and fashion and portrait photographer Richard Avedon.

For his final year dissertation Boo went to Whitby in north Yorkshire, the departure point for fishermen sailing to the North Sea fishing fields to make their fortunes the hard way. He asked one of the captains if he could come aboard and returned the next day with a bag packed with “a truckload of film”. This was before the TV series Deadliest Catch beamed the harsh working conditions they experienced into Irish households.

“I used to get seasick constantly,” he recalls, laughing. “There were fish guts everywhere and copies of the Daily Sport in the galley. It wasn’t one bit chic.” In total he spent nine nights aboard vessels in the North Sea and made a book of the shots he took.

It was impressive enough to get him work in London with Julian Broad, whose work is in the British National Portrait Gallery as well as Vanity Fair and British Vogue. With Broad he “learned about light, how to take portraits and the business of photography”. When he wasn’t working, he was in the British Library “soaking up everything”. He also, he says, “spent hours in the archive section of the Condé Nast library devouring old copies of British Vogue and Arena Homme”.

A “wet day” working with Bruce Webber opened his eyes to the scale of production involved in international fashion campaigns. “Rather than having 10 people on a fashion shoot there would be 100. That scale no longer fazes me. For Zara’s autumn/winter campaign I had 100 people reporting to me.” He shot that campaign in Spain, a first for the Spanish fast-fashion behemoth.

When he gets home to Ireland he loves going to the beach. “Growing up, we spent a lot of time in Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow where we had a caravan. One of my earliest memories is of Hurricane Charlie when loads of the caravans ended up on the beach. We still stayed in ours and it’s a childhood memory that is now a motif I use all the time in my work. I’ve put caravans on the beach in LA, England, the south of France, for Japanese Vogue, Chinese Vogue and for Superdry.”

In Dublin he did a shoot for ID magazine on Sandymount strand with the Pigeon House towers framing the feature.

“Armani’s people asked to see my book and Mr Armani said ‘let’s use him’. That is how I got to shoot the Emporio Armani campaign on Dollymount strand. There was no point in trying to reproduce Monaco, LA or the south of France in northside Dublin.”

Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s he wasn’t saturated with visual culture but admired photographer Perry Ogden’s work. He’s trying to buy a house in Co Kerry so that he can spend more time here.

Like Ogden he really wants to shoot more in Ireland, saying “Our knitwear, beaches, cobbled streets are all relative to the picture. When you factor in costs, weather and logistics Dublin makes a lot of sense as it is relatively close to London.”