LIKE many in this series, photography was not Bridie Murphy’s first job.
She has gone from teaching children to photographing them and lots more beside.
Bridie grew up in the countryside of west Limerick in the townland of Glenbawn, Ballyhahill.
“Primary education was in a lovely two teacher school in Clounlehard, about one mile away. We walked there, naturally, as was the case with everyone at the time. The only car we needed to step in from was the school principal’s Master Barry. It was a real treat on a fine Summer’s day to be allowed to travel barefooted. How things have changed!”
In another sign of times changing, that school was closed and it amalgamated with Ballyhahill NS just as Bridie was starting sixth class. St Patrick’s Secondary School in Glin also closed when she completed her final year as Tarbert comprehensive had opened at that stage.
“After that I got the coveted ‘call to teaching’ and was one of the last students to graduate after two years in Mary Immaculate Training College. The course runs for four years now.”
On the year Bridie graduated she met the man who was to become her husband at the Friday night dance in the Riverside Ballroom Athea; Stephen Murphy from the next parish, Carrickerry.
“We have been blessed with over forty years of love and laughter which led to three children, two sons and a daughter. We have four grandchildren to date! Incidentally our eldest son Kevin is now a very successful award winning wedding photographer, based in Cratloe.
“My years of teaching were spent mostly in special education. I was lucky to spend most of the time in local schools. My longest spell in any school was in Shanagolden NS where I spent ten years and was blessed with a kind caring and diligent principal, local man Joe Ryan.”
Bridie retired from there in June 2010 and then her photography career took off.
“I had always enjoyed taking pictures. It started as a hobby. Once a friend of mine called and took a photo of my one-year-old daughter. When she later showed me the photo, I was gobsmacked at the clarity and quality of the image. I went to Limerick the following day and bought my first decent SLR camera. I enrolled in a correspondence course (no you-tube or online classes back then) and every month I looked forward to my next photo challenge.”
She later became a member of the Society of Photographers and every January travelled to their convention in London where she attended workshops with some of the world’s finest photographers.
“It was a great thrill when some of my images later won awards alongside the same people. I have built great friendships with some fellow photographers, so much so that one in particular, a master photographer from Michigan named Rick De Lorme came to Ireland in 2018 to spend a few days in my home teaching me his style of photography. Some clients have become great friends too, and return year after year to update their children and family photos.”
During Bridie’s teaching career there were moments in class when the sun might sneak in through a side window; light up a child or group and she would be tempted to run to the car for her camera to grab the moment.
“So the bug was starting to bite at that stage! I am mainly a portrait photographer and work from my home studio in Glenastar Ardagh. Through the years, I did a lot of wedding photography but it’s mostly baby and family photography and family celebrations that I photograph at the moment.
“Landscape photography is something I love to do in my spare time and am fascinated by sunrises and sunsets. You never get two the same! On hearing a good forecast it’s not unusual for me to rise at daybreak and head for a suitable location to witness and capture nature at its best.”
The question we have asked every participant in this series is, “What makes a good photographer?”
“To me it’s much more than just technical knowledge or camera settings. In my opinion it’s knowing when to press that shutter to capture something that cannot be repeated or staged. It’s having good people skills and making a connection with someone that will touch the soul of the viewer.
“It’s having the patience to spend as much time as necessary to make sure that the experience is as enjoyable for the person being photographed as it is for the photographer. It’s more passion than work.”
And that is reflected in these six photos. See bridiemurphy.com for more.