Gerry Andrews with Billy Butler at the opening Picture: Dave Gaynor
PHOTOGRAPHER Gerry Andrews has found that the generosity of people he has met around the world during his travels can pose unexpected and unique difficulties.
But after travelling the globe he has come up with an easy get-out clause, without causing offence.
“How can you say ‘No’ when someone offers you a tarantula and it’s a delicacy in the Amazon rainforest, and you don’t want to cause offence?”
“Or how do you say no to intestines with fresh blood, or a feast of raw snake?” he asked the audience who gathered at the opening of his travel photography exhibition, Faces and Places: A Photographer’s Journey, in the Hunt Museum on Friday last.
He developed a bit of a “fail safe position, a little white lie,” and now his default mechanism when offered some rare treat is to say “it’s the month of St Patrick at home in Ireland and my religion prevents me from eating anything other than rice and cereal bars. That gets me out of a lot of difficulty,” he laughed.
As he opened his first major photographic show in four years, he felt the same sense of anticipation as he did when he first showed his now iconic collection of black and white images of the forgotten faces of Limerick, from the Milk Market, to a worldwide audience.
The subject matter of both run in the same vein – people, their life stories and struggles, and capturing the essence of human dignity irrespective of the hardships they have borne.
The context and the location may differ on this occasion, but his mind’s eye remains focused on one undisputable quality.
Mr Andrews, who hails from Wolfe Tone Street in the city but who has lived in Dublin for decades, said a certain sense of deja vu came over him on Friday night.
When he opened the last collection, he was “very apprehensive in case people felt I was depicting people as Frank McCourt did in Angela’s Ashes. But nothing could be further from the truth.”
Worries washed over him again at the weekend, as he feared he may not do his subjects justice.
“How can a photograph capture the smells, the sounds, and the assault on the senses when you travel through south east Asia and India? It’s just not possible for a camera to capture that.
“How can a camera do justice to a sunrise over the Himalayas? Or capture the tranquility and the reverence of a monk as he’s meditating in Burma? It’s just not possible.
“Equally, it’s not possible for a camera to capture the generosity and sheer willingness of people to share what little they have with a traveller in impoverished communities.
“There’s a similarity between the Milk Market and some of the places I’ve been to, because people are fundamentally the same the world over, and in many respects those from an impoverished environment tend to be the most generous and I’ve been astonished and amazed by the generosity of people as I’ve travelled,” said Mr Andrews.
Professor Vincent Cunnane, president of Limerick Institute of Technology, who opened the exhibition, which runs for the month, said the large attendance was “testament to Gerry and his enduring appeal.”
Prof Cunnane praised his body of “compelling images, through his tremendous range of technical skills and his engagement with humanity, the combination of which has produced a form of high art”.
“He brought his iconic images of Limerick people to a worldwide audience, and now he has brought his worldwide images to a local audience. The connection is still people; it’s still real.” Taking in scenes from across Europe, south east Asia, Ethiopia, Cuba, and north America, it runs until Sunday, March 26.
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