Wish you were here? Postcards from modern Ireland


The Ireland of postcards comes in predictable forms: a selection of tourist attractions, a John Hinde image or sheep on a boreen with the line ‘An Irish Traffic Jam’. But what postcards should we send out to represent modern Ireland? We asked artists and ‘Irish Times’ photographers which of their images they’d want tourists to post home – and look for your suggestions

Enda Cavanagh Photographer

I chose this photo because it shows the location in an alternative way. It shows that you just have to open your eyes to what’s around you, and there is always something beautiful in the unexpected. The more orthodox subject of beauty becomes secondary and is used to merely compliment the form of the man-made in the image. Enda Cavanagh’s latest book is called Exploring the Irish Landscape.

See endacavanagh.com

Will St Leger Artist

These days I feel Ireland is looked upon as a charity gig. Our once-prosperous country has been undermined by corrupt institutions and politicians who lied to our faces. Sometimes I think Irish people carry a residual famine gene. Our hunger for commodities and status distracted us from the voices of economic sense. The Celtic Tiger years are over, thankfully. The Irish flourish when creativity, compassion and common sense are our rulers.

See Will St Leger on Facebook

Bryan O’Brien The Irish Times

In 2008 I took this photograph of the five-star Grand Canal Square Hotel at Grand Canal Quay, Dublin, as it neared completion. I love this beautiful building, designed by architect Manuel Aires Mateus. I love the look and feel of the whole area – Grand Canal Theatre, the wonderful lighting, the plants, the street architecture, the water. It is modern Dublin at its best. It isn’t a typical pretty-postcard image, but there’s a poignancy to it, with the builder looking out pensively. There’s a sense of what might have been. The hotel has still not opened. American group Hyatt Hotels has expressed an interest in buying it but no deal has yet been done.

Frank Miller The Irish Times

The classic John Hinde or Real Ireland postcards inevitably focus on an imagined version of a “beautiful” Ireland, whether a classic landscape, such as the Killarney Lakes, or of an old-style pub exterior. We are lucky enough to live in a country where there is beauty to be found around almost every corner. This summer I have been lucky enough to holiday on Inisbofin Island, Co Galway, where the flora in the bogland is stunning to behold, and later in Sligo, where a short drive from Ben Bulben was a landscape that took my breath away. This view of oystercatchers over Dublin Bay, three miles from O’Connell Street, was taken with a pocket camera on a stiff but bright day in January. The strong wind whipped up the waves, and a flock of birds came over. Beauty is never far away on this island, we just need to be receptive to it.

Dara Mac Dónaill The Irish Times

Most people associate postcards with summer holidays. It’s always nice to receive items through the letterbox other than junk mail and endless bills. A postcard can often tell a lot about the person who sent it. Whether it's a photograph, a painting or a funny sketch, it can sometimes signal how they felt when choosing the particular postcard. With climate change, who knows, this type of image may become a classic summer scene in Ireland in the future! The photograph was taken in Portmarnock, Co Dublin, last December.

Sean Hillen Artist

I don’t think this would attract many to Ireland (unless to see the quality of the art!), but it is where we find ourselves. It reminds me of my favourite Irish story: a tourist stops a local to ask how to get to a particular destination. Irish person: “Well, I wouldn’t start from here.” I have an interest in “deep politics” and “deep finance”, and believe this to be a staged recession and a financial power coup. (My other recent work, such as Searching for Evidence, addresses that more directly.) However, I think we should pay attention, too, to the carnage in the streets, and see what can be done to mitigate it, and this work seeks to draw attention to that. Sean Hillen's Ghost Shopsexhibition is on the second floor, above Basecamp, 108 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin, until August 14th. See http://2011.photoireland.org

Cyril Byrne The Irish Times

“Ciao from Dublin. Weather’s great, sitting on the boardwalk of the Liffey with our Oirish hats and souvenirs. We sampled the black stuff at lunchtime, met up with some characters in the pub, some with accents you could cut with a knife. They told us about the special windows in Bewley’s cafe, the free galleries and a book called Kells at Trinity College. Tomorrow’s sorted, as they say here. We take a bus trip on a Wild Wicklow Tour for the day.”


Design your own postcard from Ireland and win €200 and a free place on digital photography courses run by the Institute of Photography (iop.ie). It can be landscape or portrait, your own design or a photograph. Include an explanation. Entries to postcard@irishtimes.com.

The postcards will feature on these pages throughout August.

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