Ruth Connolly is a graduate of the Limerick School of Art and Design and a Postgraduate from Central St. Martins. She is currently practicing as a visual artist, photographer and lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Design whilst living in Dublin with her husband and cat.
1. Can you describe your creative process in three words?
I used to have a creative process which was fairly straightforward:
2. Make work
3. Review/edit Work
(Thats as close to three words as I can get)
But in the last couple of years it has flipped a little to:
1. Make work
2. Review work/put into context
3. Continue making work
Basically I have let myself make work more organically, reviewing it afterwards and looking at what I am interested in, and that leads to more ideas. Much better for me than trying to force ideas.
2. You have previously been based in London, how does life differ for an artist in Ireland? Are there more/less opportunities?
Well, in London I was studying for my MA in Photography, so it was very different in a few ways. I had an instant little community with my classmates, I had access to exhibitions and crits and great visiting lectures, etc. (but that’s what comes of being in college rather than being in London). However, I had no real connections outside of that. I didn’t know many people and I didn’t know where to start with being a commercial photographer as I was still starting out. I never planned on staying in London, so I didn’t network too much.
That very word “networking” makes me want to run in the opposite direction.
When I moved back to Ireland I found the photography community to be smaller and less intimidating. I had met quite a few of my favourite photographers in an informal and organic way, rather than feeling like I was networking- that very word “networking” makes me want to run in the opposite direction.
I had some hard experiences in London, working for people that weren’t very nice, being treated disrespectfully, not getting paid, in Dublin people are definitely more sound (so far so good!). So I’ve been getting more opportunities here but like I said I was in college in London so I wasn’t looking for much commercial work, at the time I was just concentrating on surviving through my MA!
3. There is a particular style flowing through your fine art and commercial work, how long did it take you to develop this personal style?
I started using medium format film in my MA and it made me slow right down and really look at what I was photographing. You hold a Bronica medium format camera at your waist and look down rather than holding it up to your face, and I think my style developed from that.
At first make work that you like; personal work, and send that out to places looking for commercial work, so that you can merge the two.
Now even when I’m using my digital camera I flip the screen and hold it at my waste, because it changes from looking through a lens to sort of looking down at a framed photograph. The best advice I’ve heard from photographers that I admire throughout the years is to first make work that you like; personal work, and send that out to places looking for commercial work, so that you can merge the two – so that’s what I’m doing.
4. What has been your greatest achievement as a photographer to date?
I had a book published earlier this year, If you lived here you’d be home by now, it was a small ambition of mine for a long time and that was pretty cool. I’ve also been lecturing in photography since I moved back to Ireland which is incredibly rewarding, though terrifying at first but I really enjoy it.
5. How do you overcome creative blocks?
I wait. I go to talks. I soak up books and Ted Talks, I visit The Library Project in Temple Bar or The Gallery of Photography. I travel a lot, so I like to go away from Ireland and soak up new experiences. But more often that that, I wait. Usually something pops up when I’m not trying to force it.