06 Dec 2021

SLIDESHOW: ‘When the phone rings, you go!’ -  Press photographer Brendan Gleeson is always on call

SEEING an iconic photo at the age of 12 set Brendan Gleeson on his path to be a freelance press photographer in Limerick and the Mid-West.

The picture that caught his imagination was the Afghan Girl taken by Steve McCurry. It featured on the front page of National Geographic, displaying the plight of thousands of Afghan refugees streaming into Pakistan.

“I used to get the magazine in the door. When I saw that photo and the impact I said I want to do this as my career. My uncle, Fr Brendan Duggan, now parish priest in Athea gave me a Konica camera with a wide angle and standard lens. He meets me regularly and reminds me he started me off,” said Brendan, who attended St Nessan’s.

In 1988, they celebrated the school’s 10th anniversary and brought out a magazine  to mark it.

“I came up with the bright idea of doing an aerial picture of the school. One of our neighbours was a pilot, Dr Ali Khan. He agreed to bring me up and we got the picture which made the inside cover,” said Brendan, who went to college in Dublin.

“I entered the Fuji Awards, coming second in the country. After this I got the chance to go to the USA through college. I was based in Pittsburgh but traveled to Washington, Niagara Falls and Toronto - an experience of a lifetime. After finishing college I got a job in Dublin but my head was always in Limerick. I started doing weddings and got national awards for weddings but I always wanted to do press photography.”  

Brendan said he was always known in the Limerick Leader but then met the “great Mike Cowhey”. 

“He was over the photographic department and started passing on work to me. We have become friends and I am nearly one of the family. There are his three adult children and then there is Brendan. Mike is the best in the world and has a heart of gold.”

Brendan works for local and national papers where his work  features regularly. 

“I have had some of my pictures used on the images of the day in the Irish Times. Our profession is probably the only one where we work with people we don’t meet. Picture desk editors would know my name but never met me. They would ring or email with what they want. Time is crucial because they need images for news websites 

“If you have a partner try and explain this. There are many times I have been having lunch, the phone goes and you have to go. I think my partner thinks I just drink coffee all day. She has been at hurling, soccer, rugby matches and even courts. She has the patience of a saint. Don’t ask me how she has not ran away from me sometimes. It’s not a 9 to 5 job and that just has to be accepted.” 

We ask every participant in this series - what makes a good photographer?

“It’s a hard question - know your gear, what it can and can not do. Sometimes you would have an idea in your head of what you want to do or suddenly someone does something so you have to be ready. Watching your subject is very important, especially VIPs. Let them be relaxed around  you and suggest can we do it this way. Explain to people what you want - they probably think I am half mad! A good picture should not have to be explained. The Irish Times and Irish Examiner two of the best photographically speaking.”  

Brendan hopes people will enjoy his six photos which he found very hard to choose from his thousands of images.

Contact Brendan by email -; on Twitter or by phone 086 322 4974

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