AN EXHIBITION of photographs documenting the Irish in Liverpool will open on Merseyside this Friday.
The photographic portraits are the work of Liverpool-based Irishman Tadhg Devlin and explore the theme of immigration.
Among Devlin’s subjects are those who came to the city in the 1950s to immigrants that arrived in recent years as a result of Ireland’s economic crisis.
The work is being showcased by Liverpool arts venue The Bluecoat as part of a wider exhibition entitled, Portfolio NW.
Entry is free and the exhibition runs until September 15.
Portfolio NW celebrates creative talent in the region and features eight artists, including Devlin, who have been specially commissioned to create new pieces for the exhibition.
Speaking of this new initiative which is still in the early stages, the photographer who is originally from Dublin said, “people came over from Ireland in 1950s when there were times of no blacks, no dogs, no Irish.
“And thinking of the amount of judgement people must have taken when they moved over initially, don’t think so much in Liverpool but when they came to parts of the UK.
“I photographed a lady who had come over from Cork and when she arrived she turned up in Liverpool and nobody could understand her because she had this really strong Cork accent!
“Because Ireland became a Republic in 1922, by leaving in the 1950s was like going back to the old enemy, the UK. When they went back home it was a feeling of you let down the country in some way.
“I feel like emigration is constant in Ireland. It’s part of the history of Ireland in some different ways.
Devlin will include a selection of both portrait shots and those he entitles ‘inbetweenners’. These represent his subjects by the sea whom he photographs as he rides the ferry between the UK and Ireland, a journey that he has long been fascinated by.
He draws his inspiration for these pieces from the idea that, “a lot of people leave but not fully, they still refer to Ireland as home. It’s a lot of complex emotions when people leave nostalgic, bitter, angry or sad.
“So the pictures on the ferry of the sea are looking at the journey going across, but also they’re taken 12 miles out from shore, so it’s kind of this inbetweenness.
“I had this idea initially to photograph people with the sea in the background, using the sea as a visual backdrop of emigration and leaving. ”
It has been 20 years since he moved to Britain from Dublin, during which time he has been involved in a variety of artistic projects.
The Fifth Province was his long-term project, a study of contemporary Ireland through the eyes of the returned emigrant. It was showcased at the Bluecoat in 2012 during the Liverpool Irish Festival.
Devlin explains the concept behind this piece as, ‘Ireland’s made up of four provinces, the fifth province is a term that’s used for the Irish Diaspora.”
His upcoming exhibition is,” the build-up of a long term piece” and he is “hoping to build up an archive of pictures” which he will ask people bring in.
Other artists to feature in Portfolio NW are Preston-based artist Rebecca Chesney, surrealist Hannah Wooll from Macclesfield, performance artist Kai-O Jay Yung and Liverpool sculptor Dave Evans.
The exhibition is open daily between 10am and 6pm