‘Dublin Bay, Bathing Places’ 2006, was taken during my residency at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. I was inspired by the writings of James Joyce in Ulysses, where Leopold Bloom heads down to the Forty Foot and looks out across the sea.
“He mounted to the parapet again and gazed out over Dublin bay, his fair oakpale hair stirring slightly.– God, he said quietly. Isn’t the sea what Algy calls it: a grey sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. Epi oinopa ponton. Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks. I must teach you. You must read them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta! She is our great sweet mother. Come and look.”
This text led me on my own journey down to the Forty Foot and other Victorian bathing places around Dublin Bay to swim in the snot green sea during the Irish Spring. These man-made paths into the sea are cut into the natural rocks and lead the bather down into the murky depths. My immersion into the primeval swamp made me think of the human journey from the sea to the land and in turn about my grandmother’s journey from Dublin to the UK. Although I have never met my grandmother, as she died when my dad was a small boy, her presence lives within my DNA.
The images were taken using a handmade large format pinhole camera set upon a tripod using 4×5 colour transparency film. The exposures were counted out in seconds at the end of the day, after swims in the icy depths. The pinhole aperture takes on the characteristics of a fisheye lens, bowing the horizon, creating the image of a pregnant bay giving birth to life and hope. This is the place where humankind can connect with the land, sea and sky, linking their past to the future. All life comes from the sea and for life to continue we must respect and cherish our environment.