Ángel Luis Gonzáles is the director of PhotoIreland, a cultural organisation established in 2009. As well as running ‘The Library Project’ and various other projects, a major highlight in their calendar each year is ‘The PhotoIreland Festival’ which has been running since 2010.
Where did you spend lockdown?
When the lockdown was implemented, we were in Dublin, working away. Just before St Patrick’s Festival, as the city slowly turned green, we planned our yearly escape away from the madness of this weekend. We jumped in the campervan and headed to our quiet place in the North West and followed with trepidation the growing concerns and limitations regarding everyday life. It soon became clear that it was best to head back to Dublin as quick as possible, and prepare for a long-term lockdown.
Did you have access to a work space during this time? If not, how did you continue to work?
We worked from home many days at the beginning, and kept to a minimum leaving the house, as there was a real feeling of an unknown danger. Shopping was done in carefully calculated trips and with specific aims, and besides taking the dogs for a walk, it was all about clocking time indoors.
We have been quite lucky though. Not only do we have The Library Project, our everyday work space, within a 2 km radius of our home, but also the Phoenix Park. This has meant that as things relaxed, we have been somewhat able to carefully continue working, heading to the office to process the few orders that trickled in over the weeks, and have used the extra time to dedicate to large scale projects, while at the same time finding the space to enjoy the outdoors safely. This made a big difference.
Can you talk through the work that you do?
Essentially, we run a cultural organisation called PhotoIreland, dedicated to supporting the development of critical art practices around Photography and Visual Culture. Over the years, we have created projects such as PhotoIreland Festival, Halftone Print Fair, New Irish Works, and the lens-based art residency How To Flatten A Mountain at Cow House Studios, among others.
In addition, we run what is likely Ireland’s only Art bookshop, The Library Project, from where we offer access to international art practices through the bookshop and the programme of activities. The space, located in Temple Bar, hosts PhotoIreland’s collection of photobooks as a public resource library of over 3000 books, many unique copies in Ireland.
Given the limitations and restrictions of the last few months, how did your ongoing projects change?
As part of St Patrick’s Festival, we were about to launch 100 Views of Contemporary Ireland, a project presenting 100 photographs by just as many artists as a postcard collection looking at the everyday life in the country. The installation was in place but we had to close it as St Patrick’s Festival itself eventually was cancelled. Thankfully, the postcards were produced in time and when we released them through The Library Project website, they slowly became quite popular and organising postal orders with these kept us a bit busy for a short while.
Did you have any projects during this time that went ahead?
The project that was most affected was the PhotoIreland Festival. This year we had planned a brave presentation away from galleries, in The Cube at Project Arts Centre, with a format focused on live performances. Quickly, we realised that Project would have to close indefinitely and we will not have access to that venue, or likely any venue. From March to April we worked on a number of iterations of the programme adapting to the challenges that kept rising, and eventually we launched ON-XFF, the programme for PhotoIreland Festival 2020. It was a productive mix of online and offline activities and content provision.
We had 6 events streamed via Zoom, 3 of them live via our website – all of them recorded and now available at 2020.photoireland.org for anyone to enjoy. Adding to these, we decided to shift deadlines for our forthcoming project OVER Journal and with a tremendous push, and the hard work of all contributors, we proposed to use the printed matter in parallel to the digital content and create a number of features around the works that otherwise would have been exhibited. This worked to great effect, and most importantly, we secured both a productive option for all involved, so there was something positive, constructive, out of this lockdown, and a much needed fee during this critical time. Meanwhile, The Library Project, the only space we could commit to use, was host to the only physical exhibition we presented this year.
Despite the circumstances, we believe that this was a great edition of the festival, and we certainly feel satisfied with the quality of engagement and what was achieved throughout this period.
Do you think the changes adopted over the last few months will change how you will work going forward?
Certainly. To start, we have now started to carve more time in our agendas for personal use, to go outdoors and to enjoy everything else but work. Also, thanks to that mindset that creates projects like OVER Journal, our work will grow in ambition, in risks, and we hope, to provide a more important legacy.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
In October, the Inspirational Arts Photography Award will manifest as a publication of each of the selected artists in our series called TLP Editions. They are Sebastian Farron Mahon (Griffith College Dublin), Isabela Szczutkowska (Technological University Dublin), Jialin Long (Dun Laoghaire Institute Of Art Design & Technology) and Sibéal Riordan (LIT Limerick School of Art & Design).
Also that month, The Library Project will be hosting a presentation of works by the Irish FUTURES artists selected in 2020, with Becks Butler, Garry Loughlin, Mark McGuinness, Shia Conlon, and Vera Ryklova.
The call for Halftone Print Fair will be out at halftone.ie in August, and we hope to host around 250 artworks this year at The Library Project in November.
Long term plans include the take over of ‘The Printworks’ in Dublin Castle, thanks to OPW, to present during the month of July for the years 2022 to 2025 four editions of PhotoIreland Festival, bringing back the research project entitled Museum of Contemporary Photography of Ireland. This run will start with the largest and most comprehensive survey exhibition of Photography in Ireland, historically and artistically relevant. We hope to announce very soon a call for more than just works, as this we wish it to be an open process, just as much as many of our projects. It is a very exciting one to look forward to!