WITH the effects of migration continuing to be a major feature of post Celtic Tiger Ireland, acclaimed Limerick photographer Maurice Gunning decided to look at the Irish diaspora in a different context.
Alongside other notable Irish photographers, his poignant images currently appear in the National Photographic Archive to celebrate the launch of this year’s Photo Ireland Festival.
Four years ago Maurice travelled to Buenos Aires to interview and photograph the Argentine Irish diaspora over three months, while Ireland’s boom was still on and at a time when people were migrating here, not emigrating.
Letters from Irish emigrants to Argentina in the 1840s-1890s in a book entitled ‘Becoming Irlandes’ by academic Edmundo Murray formed the starting point of his expedition, to track down descendants of Irish emigrants during the Great Famine era.
“The letters had very universal descriptions of loneliness, the talk of sending money home and missing the newspapers back home. Or not being able to go home for the funeral. It was often written ‘I wanted to come home, but I couldn’t or ‘When my pockets are full I’ll be home,” explained Maurice, from Clancy Strand. Two years later he met with all the Argentine Irish organisations of the city, explored the vast farmland areas of Buenos Aires province, and was facilitated by the Irish Embassy of Argentina, with his work showcased in Buenos Aires in 2010 under the title Encuentro-A Gathering. During this time he revisited many of the places and people he had met on his previous trip. His work runs alongside David Monahan’s series ‘Leaving Dublin’, a photographic tribute to the courage and efforts of those who have left their homeland in search of better opportunities abroad. The National Photographic Archive said the exhibition “brings together two strands of one and the same story, and reminds us that the intensely personal decision to emigrate will not only dramatically shape the future lives of those who leave, but also has a huge impact on those left behind.” It runs until July 22.