Susan Wood: On My Culture Radar

The photographer on her run-in with John Wayne and her love of Grace and Frankie

Current favourite book

I've been busy launching my own books, Women and Ireland, so I haven't had a chance to read. But I have a pile of biographies to read – I'm interested in personal stories. I live in Long Island, which is a little like Kinsale in that it's a go-to area for the creative community, and I pick up books by local writers at the exhibition space and parish museum. So I've been reading Zara's Tales, by photographer Peter Beard, which he wrote for his daughter. It's so charming. And I just went to the launch of my friend Tim Pat Coogan's The GAA and the War of Independence. I can't wait to get into it.


In Dublin, I love going to The Merrion’s bar and having soup and sandwiches. They’re just the greatest. I had a wonderful curried soup with croutons with lots of herbs and little sandwiches last time I went. It couldn’t have been a better meal. In the United States, I eat out a lot because I’m single now as my last husband died three years ago, and otherwise food goes to waste. In East Hamptons, I eat at Sam’s, which is one of the oldest no-nonsense restaurants, and famous for its pizza, though I’d recommend the meatball. I also love Nick and Tony’s; they grow ingredients outside in their own garden and emphasise healthy Italian food. In New York I love going to Cafe d’Alsace – they’re very good on Alsatian cooking; their lamb is all very fresh and good.


I tend to go for more humorous, wry social drama. I loved Hamilton. I saw it when it first opened.


I love David Hockney's work. One of the photographs I did of him about 10 years ago is in the Staley Wise Gallery in New York, and I'm fascinated by A Bigger Book, of his work. The energy, the colour, the freshness. I feel when it's personal, it gives us a good a point of view of our history as anything sociological.



It sounds like I’m making it up but I love Dublin, and I also love New York. And who doesn’t love Paris? I adore big urban centres where there’s a lot of freedom and diversity.


I got a big kick out of working with John Wayne. I was out in Tanzania for six months with him and Howard Hawks; Howard didn't like me and John did. He was direct and he could be warm but he had a short fuse. He quite rightly got angry at me one day, when I was moving around when he was trying to act during a scene. But otherwise he was gracious, warm and funny.

TV show

I watch a lot of Grace and Frankie, which stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. They are very funny. Grace is an uptight suburban woman dressed in a twinsuit, and Frankie is an artsy type; their husbands were lawyers but they announced they were gay and going off to get married. They have adopted children too, and has almost every variety of today's problems – that makes it even more interesting. I also get a big kick out of The Rachel Maddow Show. She's a newscaster on MSNBC who pulls together great news stories. Her organising and presenting of material is humorous, significant and interesting.


I watched I Feel Pretty on the plane. I loved Amy Schumer, I didn't realise she was such a good actress. The film is a wonderful lesson for young girls, but it's a delight to watch, too. She hits reality here and there. We've all embarrassed ourselves trying to look sporty, for example.

  • Susan Wood's Ireland, featuring more than 150 photographs by one of New York's leading photographers evokes a pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland, is available from October 17th at all good bookshops and at