First encounters


Sharon Corr and Barry McCall

SHARON CORRrecently travelled to Tanzania as Oxfam Ambassador for its campaign on women’s rights called Ending Poverty Starts with Women. One of the judges on RTÉ’s The Voice, she will release her second solo album early next year. She lives in Dublin with her husband Gavin Bonnar and their children, Flori (5) and Cal (6)

‘I FIRST MET BARRY when the Corrs were coming up in the industry. We were all people all of a similar age making our mark in the mid to late 1990s. Barry had been in and out of The Factory [rehearsal/production studios in Dublin] doing photographs when we’d been rehearsing and we got to know each other gradually.

“Then he did a photo shoot for The Corrs and I remember thinking ‘Wow, he’s great, he’s just so good.’ You could see his professionalism from day one. Some people chat a lot, other people do their job. He does his job.

“The Corrs loved working with him. Any woman would want to be photographed by Barry – seriously, he brings out the best in every woman. He’s quite shy, without a doubt, but has emotional depth. He’s intuitive, people respond to seeing something in a person’s eyes in a photograph and Barry’s amazing at capturing that.

“He’s also great at making me look better! You rely on certain photographers because they do a great job — and they have your back if you’re having a really rough day, if you’re dog tired after being up with the kids all night.

“If I’m doing a photo-shoot I will ask for three people: Barry, Dylan and Ingrid Hoey for styling because they’re just the best in the country – and they’re my friends and I love them. We have a great laugh when we’re doing it.

“I’ve been shot by David Bailey and Patrick Demarchelier and I’d put Barry on a par with any of those people. He’s just shot Richard Branson, he’s shot Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell . . . there’s no reason why you can’t come from Ireland and be the best in the world.

“We don’t see that much of each other, we’re all busy, all flying around. To be honest, I don’t see a lot of people socially; when I’m not working I’m with the kids. But every so often we do manage to get a good night out together and it’s a lot of fun – the sense of humour is paramount.

“I was delighted to be asked to go to Tanzania. It was a hugely bonding experience for me and Barry, we were proud of the job we were doing, proud that people spoke to us, told us about some of the most difficult stuff any human being can go through and allowed Barry to take their pictures.

“Oxfam’s Tanzania campaign is on women’s issues, which are very close to my heart: equality is so incredibly important. It’s something I’ve always felt – I’m a feminist, yes. That’s not being anti-men, but pro-women. And there’s a much greater need for it right now because of the misogynistic stuff in music, forexample.

“Tanzania is a society that is culturally anti-female: domestic violence is extremely common, women farm the land but are told they have no right to own it. Oxfam works with programmes to empower women which eventually will empower their children and men too. I do feel passionately about it.”

BARRY McCALLis a fashion, advertising and portrait photographer who celebrated his 20 years in business this year by publishing Pho20graphy, a coffee table book of portraits which has raised more than €300,000 so far for the ISPCC. He travelled to Tanzania with Sharon Corr to take pictures for Oxfam’s new women’s rights campaign. He and his partner, Kari Rocca, live in Dublin. They got married last week in Los Angeles

‘I USED TO WORK in The Factory on Barrow Street. It had a great little café and one day, me and my assistant were having coffee when Sharon and her sisters walked in. I didn’t know who they were – this was around 1995/96, before Runaway had been released – and we just went: ‘Omigod. Who are they?’ That was my first encounter with the sisters.

“Within a year we’d started working together, found we had mutual friends, like Dylan Bradshaw, who’s a good buddy of mine and handles the girls’ hair. So from then, we’d see each other socially.

“My first impression when I met them was that they’re really down to earth, really, really well brought up girls, interested in what you’re doing, open minded – and they haven’t changed.

“What’s special about Sharon is her real interest in you. When you’re having a chat she’s checking out how you are, what you’re doing, what’s going on. As soon as she did her first solo project, she gave me a call, asked me to work on it, said: ‘You’re the one I trust most with a camera’. Which is a really nice thing to hear.

“When Sharon’s manager Henry asked if I’d go to Tanzania with her, I said, ‘absolutely’. I’d never been to Africa, never done anything like that before.

“You know someone for a long time, but when you travel away like that you see them in a completely different light. I was amazed with how Sharon was. We were all travelling together, all had the same hours to put in. You could be sitting in a little old rackety bus for seven hours; you’d arrive and there’d be around 1,000 Tanzanian townfolk out to greet you. She’d be out immediately, on the ball, knew the town, the town leader’s name, had a big handshake for everyone she met, listened to their stories, taking stuff in, not just going ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’. I just saw her in a different light. It blew me away.

“She’s not showy, wasn’t doing the teary thing for television – and we were hearing some pretty harrowing stories. On the way back on the bus she was able to sit down and talk about them. Some of the women travelled with us and there was Sharon, chatting away. I’d know her in a different way after that – I have huge admiration for her.

“With that bone structure, you can’t really take a bad picture of her. In some of the Tanzanian pictures there’s not a screed of make-up on her and she looks just great.

“Sharon’s always supportive of me – when I had a book launch, an exhibition – boom, she’s there. She’s always kind, generous, always easy, chatting away, shooting the breeze, the same as she was before the Corrs were famous.

“Sharon wasn’t at my wedding last week in LA – she was out doing promos for the Oxfam campaign. But she’ll be at the bash in Dublin we’ll be having for family and friends.”

In conversation with Frances O'Rourke

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