Practitioner Research - Tom Wood, Irish Works
Recently I was shown a photobook that I found quite significant when it came to influencing the route of my project, which was: Irish Works by Tom Wood. For context, Wood was born in Ireland but during the early years of his childhood his family emigrated to England. The work displayed in this book showcases multiple trips to Ireland over the course of 50 years, showcasing several formats of media, including film, digital and stills from moving image, often found footage.
First and foremost, I think the reason that I enjoy the book so much is just the emotions that the work elicits out of me. The images just scream Ireland. And that really just brings a great sense of joy and pride out of me that I don’t often feel from other people's work. What it does so brilliantly, is that it accepts what makes Ireland so unique, and that is its people, and the relationships he has with them, as well as the ones they have to each other. I discussed this with Simon Weldon, who recommended the book to me, who explained that Wood would often spend incredibly long durations of time around the people he was photographing, so as to build that trust and that relationship with them, so that getting these photos of them became a much easier thing to do. You can see that evidently in the photos. There is no wall between the camera and the subject. They look directly into the lens, which serves to develop a greater sense of intimacy to this culture. This allowance to be photographed, to let Wood into their homes, into their cars, to follow them into fields and into mountains. It at times feels like he is getting to witness their most private moments. The issue when it comes to applying something like that in my work is that I just don’t have the time to build a relationship like that with anyone I was intending to shoot, as I am working on a much smaller time frame, but I do hope at least that I’ll be able to replicate that intimacy in some way, albeit differently from Wood’s photos.
His visual style is something I want to try to borrow when it comes to the next stages of my project. It often tethers people and place together, which I think has always been an Irish thing. Regardless of where you are in the world, or how long you have been away from Ireland, you’re always bound to it.
The one issue I do have with the book is the general size of it. There must be over 200 photos in the book, making it seem too large of a read. Whilst the quality of the book never really wavers, from a reader standpoint you do start to feel oversaturated with imagery, which is something that I struggled with at first. Since I don’t get to visit Ireland all the time, the desire to show how much work I can produce was something I felt I wanted to do, but after seeing the result of too much work, I think that for my final project I would rather focus on creating a smaller and more precise set of work.