Sadhbh Villiers O'Callaghan

Photographer who explores the fragile but enduring qualities of our memories

John Rainsford

Reporter:

John Rainsford

Sadhbh Villiers O'Callaghan

Born in Dublin my parents moved around before settling in Rosscarbery, Co Cork where I attended primary and secondary school.

Next, I entered Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) to study for a degree in photography and lens-based media. I was always interested in art, indeed it was my favourite subject throughout my schooling. I was particularly interested in photography though and after getting my first camera took photos of anything and everything. Dad was big into photography when he was younger so he gave me his old film camera, a lens, and even some old dark room equipment. He also used a video camera that he would rent out once a year to document my growing-up. In fact, we have a video that has about five minutes from each year of my life from age three to sixteen.

Today, I specialise in digital photography and the moving image through which I explore my memories and the memories of others.

The fluid space of memory, influenced by time, place, and experience, is what my practice is all about. By comparing and contrasting the experiences of my subjects I discover differences in the memories we share and capture the spaces that hold these memories. In fact, I often find that when I visit these places again the memories are easier to remember. Because our memories are so intertwined with language I also like to explore the importance of words, and sentences. The accompanying text that I use creates a story and evokes memories in the viewer. I tend to find these words by talking to friends and family who share similar memories.

I often ask friends to walk with me, maybe on a beach, where we remember a particular day in our teenage years and I ask them to recall what they remember most.

In fact, their descriptive words frequently appear in my old diaries. I compare my memory of a past event with my friends’ memories and what I had written in the past. I want the viewer to experience the feelings associated with remembering when looking at my work. I often use words and images that may be similar to the viewers’ experiences so their memories may be triggered again. Innately, I was drawn to taking photos of places that held significant importance for me and this is how I stumbled upon my theme of memories. When I realized this I began to explore those memories that I was drawn to most often. Currently, I am working on a new video piece and talking to curators about joining a future exhibition in Cork city.

My photographs tend to have a landscape style while my videos are narrative and I like to experiment with light from projectors in order to highlight the landscapes in my prints.

My video pieces are generally three channels while my prints are paired together. I like these memories to overlap because that’s how our memories naturally form in our minds. The memories that I draw inspiration from are usually those of excitement or sadness. Generally, the memories we come back to are usually the ones that cause us the most intense emotions. We come back to these memories after analysing them over and over again. Additionally, I explore the places that hold these memories, so I have a lot of landscape shots in my portfolio. I like to put text to these images in order to create a sense of memory so the viewer’s memories will also be triggered. Overall, I want to create a sense of nostalgia. Someone who wants to be a photographer is someone who has a passion for creating art by using images. Artists who chose to use photography to show their art reveal how the digital image has much to offer. There is so much to explore but a camera can capture and record our memories forever. Indeed, someone can enjoy experimenting with a camera as a hobby, and as their passion grows so might a possible career.

All you need to become a photographer is a camera and a keen sense of adventure.

Going to college has taught me so much and has opened-up many doors for me. It has, also, taught me how to look at things differently and to learn through interaction with the subject. Photography can be taught technically but I do think that enthusiasts need to have an eye for what’s aesthetically pleasing which is a talent that cannot be taught.

Over many years of living in Limerick I have found that it is becoming an even bigger creative centre and with so many exhibitions (from EVA to culture night) there is always something interesting to see.

Students from other Art Colleges bring many creative events to our city too. The new Troy Studios is going to bring even more interesting projects to Limerick which is so exciting to see. Generally, the digital age we live in is expanding everyday, and there are many different career routes for photographers these days, from editors to portrait photographers. The current economic climate is improving while Ireland’s photography and film world is expanding all the time. Visual artists in Ireland are still finding things challenging but there is a huge improvement from only a few years back. So, if you follow your passion and work really hard you will be rewarded eventually!

For more information about Sadhbh please contact: sadhbhoc@hotmail.com