Documenting Ireland: An Interview with Pioneers of the Irish Photography Scene

Image Credit: Photograph by Nicola O’Reilly (@babygirlfilms)

Lydiah Kagwi speaks to rising stars in the field of Irish photography, Nicola O’Reilly (@babygirlfilms) and Kate Lawlor (@daisychainphotos), and discusses their creative process in the burgeoning visual scene.

Ireland, particularly Dublin, is currently seeing a huge wave and flux of creative talent. Young artists now more than ever are unafraid to move far outside the boundaries of what has been done or what art should look like, instead opting to make art on their own terms. Photographers especially are leading the way, not only managing to document and capture art so uniquely and distinctively to their style but also with such a strong passion. Two talented photographers I had the pleasure of interviewing and finding out what they make of the creative photography scene right now are Nicola O’Reilly (instagram: @babygirlfilms) and Kate Lawlor (instagram: @daisychainphotos). Their interviews follow below.  

Young artists now more than ever are unafraid to move far outside the boundaries of what has been done or what art should look like, instead opting to make art on their terms, their way.

23-year-old Nicola O’Reilly from Finglas Dublin, also known under her artist name ‘BabyGirlFilms’ is a photographer and videographer. 

LK: When and how did you get into photography? What inspired you at the start of your journey and what continues to inspire you today? 

NO: I started photography/videography around 5 years ago when I was gifted a camera for Christmas. I always had a huge interest in entering the creative industry by documenting artists I was interested in. Music has always been a huge part of my life, ever since I was a kid all I would watch on tv were music videos and so I knew it would be something I would be interested in doing. I’ve met such incredible people from my craft and made lifelong friends so I find inspiration in them to this day. Ireland is bursting with talent and with the right representation we can really take this country to the next level.  

LK: There really is so much bursting talent right now in Ireland, particularly in the creative world; how do you see this in your line of work and the people you work with?  

NO: Ireland is full of talent. Being friends with these people in the creative industry, I’m constantly surrounded by it. I also see it every time I scroll on my feed online so it’s really impossible to miss whether I choose to see it or not. Dublin right now is a very exciting place to be. I feel it’s just recently that creatives/artists are realising how much we can help each other out in our small city by working together to put us all “on the map”. There’s so much opportunity here and I think this narrative of you having to leave Ireland to make it will be history very soon with the way things are going. 

‘Dublin right now is a very exciting place to be… There’s so much opportunity here and I think this narrative of you having to leave Ireland to make it will be history very soon with the way things are going.’

LK: What do you hope to say with your photography, your work, and about Ireland as a landscape and its people? 

NO: With my photography, I can make it say whatever I want it to say. I do prefer to capture moments of real rawness, moments in time that will stay with you forever. In my mind, Ireland’s creative industry is still on the come up and I’m just beyond grateful to be able to document it and hopefully be a part of history. 

LK: What would you say to anyone reading this who is a fan of your work or is just looking to get into photography or the creative scene right now but is a little scared or unsure on where to even begin?  

NO: To anyone looking to step into this line of work, the only advice I could give them is to just start somewhere, anything can be art. Figure out what it is you like exactly, what style are you drawn to, what do you enjoy to look at, what type of circle do you wish to be involved in. I learned very early on that a college degree is not necessary to create (although it may be helpful to some). It may seem scary at first but simply reach out to people you find interesting and offer to shoot for them. You may have to work for free starting out but once you grow your name and see the demand coming in for your work, you know you’re doing something right. Just have fun with it really, make cool shit with cool people.


 

At 24, Katie Lawlor (@daisychainsphotos) is a self-taught freelance photographer who works predominantly in the music industry. 

LK: When and how did you get into photography? What inspired you at the start of your journey and what continues to inspire you today? 

KL: I started working as a professional photographer just over two years ago now but I’ve been posting my photography on Instagram for roughly ten years at this point! I initially got into photography through my appreciation of music really—I loved looking at the cool themed photo shoots my favourite musicians did and I always wanted to be able to create concept shoots like that. Music still inspires me in the same way today, and a lot of my work is actually inspired by the music I listen to! 

LK: Have you seen a change/shift in the photography world in Ireland from when you first started to now? 

KL: I think I have seen a shift in the photography world since I first started out. I feel like slowly but surely, music photography is becoming more and more experimental. Stylistically I think there are a lot of younger photographers going against the grain with the work they produce. I think a lot of this is to do with social media and bands/musicians wanting their visuals to really match the music they produce - for example, shoegaze artists aren’t really looking for a super clear, well-lit shot of their faces, they want something that captures the vibe their music is giving. I know sometimes the very experimental stuff can be divisive with others who value more traditional photography styles but I think there’s room for everyone in the Irish music scene at the moment! There’s always going to be high demand for the more traditional styles too.  

LK: What do you hope to say with your photography and your work?  

KL: I guess I just hope to communicate to those seeing my photos how the moment I’m capturing felt in real time. With portraiture, I’m always hoping to convey the personality and energy of the person in front of the lens and with concert photography, I aim to capture the energy in the room and on the stage. Ultimately, I want those who weren’t there to witness the moment, to be able to feel the energy I felt in witnessing it.  

‘Ultimately, I want those who weren’t there to witness the moment, to be able to feel the energy I felt in witnessing it.’

LK: Your editing style is both so unique and special. Definitely identifiable! How did you achieve your unique editing style? How has your work changed from when you first started out? 

KL: Thank you so much! I honestly often struggle to answer this question as I think my style has always just been what feels right to me. I don’t watch editing tutorials really, and when I’m editing a photo, there’s usually no formula I follow, I just go by how I feel! Colour is very important to me - I watch a lot of colourful movies and music videos and they definitely make me feel inspired to edit. I usually spend a LOT of time playing around with balancing all of the colour in my pictures. I change the colours until they look 100% right to me, I’m super perfectionist about it! Over the last couple of years my style has definitely changed a little as I’ve learned different editing techniques - but only to a more refined version of my original style I think. I’ve always loved a lot of colour, a lot of  neon lighting and a lot of motion blur and I continue to incorporate all of those elements into my work, just with slightly different editing techniques now.

LK: What would you say to anyone reading this who is a fan of your work or is looking to get into  photography right now but is a little scared or unsure of where to even begin? 

KL: Just start shooting! Anything and everything. My very first photo on my photography Instagram was a picture of a tree 2 feet away from my house. When you start with what you know and what’s familiar to you, it’ll come naturally. In 2020 during lockdown, I would photograph the same houses in my housing estate nearly every evening just to capture the difference in the sky behind them in each set of photos. You don’t need to feel pressured to immediately start shooting concerts, or events, or portraits. Practising with ‘less exciting’ subjects can often improve your skills much more as you really have to think about  how to make the photo memorable. Also never compare yourself to others - everyone’s art is uniquely  theirs; staying true to what you’re creating for yourself is so important.