Photographers' Blog

A tale of two cities

By Cathal McNaughton

I’ve been covering the economic crisis in Ireland for over three years, chronicling the changes as the Celtic Tiger becomes a distant memory and the austerity measures grip the country.

But because I’m in Dublin so frequently I have probably become accustomed to the sight of unfinished buildings, “to let” signs and boarded up shops. I no longer properly notice the terrible decline that is gripping the country.

Recently I was on assignment in Oslo, Norway, covering the visit of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and it was while I was there that I took time to look around another major European city. The contrast was stark.

In Dublin there is a permanent air of gloom. No matter where you look there are visible signs of the recession with businesses shutting down and building projects abandoned. The Irish newspapers are fixated on the financial crisis and headlines churn out doom and gloom daily. You can’t turn on a radio station without an in-depth debate about the state of the country. In coffee shops it’s all anyone can talk about – the obsession with housing that has dropped hundreds of thousands of euro in value and the impossibility of things ever getting back to normal.

But in Oslo, the economy has been untouched by the recession and it is a booming vibrant city. Just like in Dublin ten years ago there are major building projects underway with luxury apartments being constructed on the waterfront. Property prices are skyrocketing. There is little sign in Oslo that their European neighbors are in turmoil, something that is borne out by the figures.

Faces of football

By Kacper Pempel

Three weeks of the Euro 2012 adventure are already behind us. Three weeks of hard work, meeting thousands of people, driving thousands of miles and shooting thousands of pictures.

As a photographer based in Poland, I was assigned to cover not only matches but also news stories in Polish cities like Wroclaw, Poznan and Gdansk. So I had a chance to meet people from many different parts of Europe who made the journey here for the soccer fiesta. They were genuine football lovers and real soccer fans.

Fans with their faces painted in nationla colours

The Irish fans made the most remarkable impression. The party they threw for all three of their games was incredible and they showed they know how to have fun even when their team is losing. They transformed the Old Market in Poznan into a “green island”, singing and cheering their national team before and after matches and through the night. After a couple of hours sleep they would be back again to kick off the next day’s festivities.

No Man Is An Island

By Cathal McNaughton

For almost 20 years Barry Edgar Pilcher has lived alone on the island of Inishfree.

He is the sole permanent inhabitant of the tiny windswept island off the coast of Co Donegal in Ireland where he writes poetry and plays music. Once a week – weather permitting – Barry, 69, makes the 15 minute boat journey to Burtonport, where he does his weekly shopping in a petrol station. He posts letters and picks up the modest provisions he will need for the week and then it’s back to his ramshackle cottage where he lives and works in a single room.

Without basic sanitation, running water or a telephone and with a leaky roof and problems with dampness, Barry’s cottage is without any modern comforts. He has a peat-burning stove to provide warmth but he has to be frugal as any fuel has to be carried back from the mainland.

Ireland’s ghost towns

“If you build it, they will come.” The iconic quote from the film Field of Dreams seems like a rebuke to Ireland’s misguided builders and planners as the depressing sight of rows of newly built empty houses – windows broken and doors flapping in the wind – stretch out in the distance.

I’d come to Co Leitrim, in the west of Ireland, to see for myself the so-called ghost housing estates that first came to the public’s attention four years ago as the Celtic Tiger collapsed leaving thousands of developers bankrupt and projects half finished. Surely in four years, something would have been done about this national embarrassment – so obvious a sign of the demise of Ireland’s once envied economy?

But endless talk of charity schemes buying over the developments to house Ireland’s sizeable homeless population , huge price cuts to entice buyers or even demolition have come to nothing as thousands of houses once commanding price tags of over E250,000 still lie empty. The only solution that seems to have been put into action is fencing off the estates – hiding the embarrassing problem behind huge hoardings – leaving the houses to crumble into disrepair away from the gaze of despairing neighbours who paid full price for an identical house just 200 yards away.

St Patrick’s Hill

London-based Swiss photographer Stefan Wermuth recalls his battle against the Irish rain….and a hill:

 

Before I left London to cover the three-day cycle race TOUR OF IRELAND I got some last minute advice from colleagues in the office – “It’s wet there!” they told me, “take wet weather gear.”  I thought it can’t be wetter than London can it?  -  but I was very wrong.

 After checking in to my hotel near Dublin I met up with some local photographers for dinner where I first heard the name of St. Patrick’s Hill in Cork. Stories were told of its 23% gradient, cyclists giving up with spinning tyres, and it being an unbelievably steep climb in the middle of Cork.

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