Photographing Cork – Spaces, Memories and Places


Grasping, South Mall trees, Nov 09

Open for Debate (abstracted from one of Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Articles:

So Heritage Week falls soon – it’s a great chance to go discovering and find out new things about your local area. In Cork City, the programme is rich from lectures to walking to heritage hunts. But there is nothing I feel like the thrill of exploring – that’s where Heritage Open Day comes in – here one can go and discover thirty of Cork’s hidden gems, whose legacies cross centuries and also cross a wide variety of themes from religion to entertainment to commercial. These buildings are normally open for select few people who work in them.

The thirty or so buildings present many views to the onlooker. They serve in part as an introduction to the development of Cork. They are a type of landscape textbook informing us of the city’s rich architecture. They provide a worldview of the time of their construction – the beliefs and politics of the time. Perhaps most importantly and often forgotten about in the written record of Cork’s past they give one access to the imagination and efforts of the people who drew up the design, the people who had sleepless nights thinking about their work and the people, the actual workers who strived hard and long to bring and weave the jigsaw pieces of an architect’s imagination together.

In fact, it is all too easy to reduce the buildings to facts, dates and figures. Visit anyone of them – take for example the Everyman Palace or Cork Opera House. Here for over one hundred years, the actor’s craft has been carved. People have come to be entertained.  When the darkness falls before a show – that time between reality leaving and imagination taking over – another place is forged for the viewer to be transported to.

There are several churches open to the public from the iconic eighteenth century St. Anne’s Church Shandon to late nineteenth century Trinity Presbyterian Church. Again these buildings are markers in the landscape that are centres of debate about the nature of people’s religious belief – their high towers pointing to the heavens but also drawing the viewer in saying look at me- but then again what about the experience of climbing Shandon through the bell tower or taking the elevator up the Elysian Tower and looking down on the modern city with all the past, present and future dreams and hopes of the region revealed through the settlement’s buildings.

Window sill, Cork Museum, Fitzgerald's Park

The city’s hills and troughs have created different perches for some of the city’s elaborate structures to stand on. Collins Barracks is mounted on one such perch protecting the city, its soldiers providing law and social order. Below in Blackpool, Heineken’s brewing tradition reveals a world of enterprise and innovation, its workers remembered through its multiple account books over the past 150 years. But one should also remember the workers in the now converted warehouses, (see artist studios at Wandesford Quay), residences such as Civic Trust House on Pope’s Quay, the hotels such as the Victoria and Imperial Hotel and all those that have checked guests in and made them feel welcome in this colourful city.

Recently, I was given a tour of the National Sculpture Factory. One hundred years ago, the National Sculpture Factory was once the central hub for electric trams whose trackways created arteries through a bustling city of contrasts from slums to richly embellished Victorian terraces in the city’s middle class suburbs.  The site was also the electricity distribution centre, which illuminated the city at night creating new ways of seeing for citizens. The trams supplied a rhythm through the city – their stopping, going and wining- the iron wheels pushing into the tracks moving through the city, connecting people.

The site of the National Sculpture Factory is all about the power of place. It is a place rooted in Cork, a place of tradition, of continuity, change and legacy, a place of direction and experiment by people, of ambition and determination, experiences and learning, of ingenuity and innovation and a place of nostalgia and memory. It like many other elaborate buildings in the city provide a cultural debate in teasing out how Cork as a place came into being. 

Penrose Quay

Through the adjacent docks, Cork was connected to the outside world – the international and small city ambitious in its ventures linking to a world of adventure and exploration. The timber quays kept back the world of the tide, for reclamation in the city was still taking place as Cork Corporation sought to bring the city centre to a new place of being. However Cork City has always strived to be a new place. It has always been ambitious in its endeavours.

    Cork’s urban landscape or textbook is throbbing with messages about the past.  The landscape serves as a vast repository of symbolism, iconography and cultural debate. For me Cork’s everyday landscape is a work of art, complex – multiple and layered. There is so much to explore and so much history and heritage we can harness in our modern world for survival.

Cork Docks

     Daniel Corkery, a famous Cork writer, talks in his book “Threshold of Quiet” about Cork being a “higgely piggely” place – that its buildings, bridges and public spaces are not uniform. Coupled with my interest in that statement, I am always amazed in my fieldwork in the city over the years of the various spaces and places. To represent that interest,  I have  tried to capture through my interest in photography the changing, overlapped and multi-layered landscapes and memories of the city’s development. Below are a cross-section of my annually growing Cork City collection. These spaces and places in Cork City are amongst thousands, that continue to draw me in, tease me and tempt me to photograph them and even in recent years, find the tools to write about them.

 Reflexive -Paul Street Shopping Centre

Shadows and light, Banks of the Lee walkway, 11 06

 South Channel

ESB Marina Station

 Atlantic Pond, 8 09

Blackrock Village Pier area, July 2009

Batique & dome, Cork City Hall

Watching, Ceili Mor, St. Patrick's Street, 9 07

Stepping up, Anglesea Street 7 07

Bishop Lucey Park 4 07

Stone Cut, Start of Centre Park Road, 9 07

Reflecting, City Hall 7 07

Extending, Cork City Hall, 7 07

Skyline, Cork City Skyline, South Mall from Parnell Place, 8 07

Creeping heritages, Copley Street, 1 07

Depth, Cork College of Commerce, 1 07

Moving forward, Grand Parade, 7 07

King Street, Horse trough, 7 07

Advancing, Lapp's Quay, Clarion Boardwalk, 9 07

Mounting Pieces, Lower Road, 9 07

Resting, Marina vistas, 9 07

Bending, Oliver Plunkett Street, 1 07

Colourful strands, Parnell Place, 1 07

Past glories, Parnell Place, formerly Nelson Place, 9 06

Flowing, Popes Quay, 4 06

Over the Weir, South Channel, 8 05

St. Patrick's Street, 9 06

When Heritage looks back, Canova casts, Crawford Art Gallery

Bold, Cork City Courthouse, 9 07

Highlighted, Cork City Hall, 6 07

Haunting, Cork City Gaol, 4 07

Balance, Court House statue

Playful, door knocker, Marlboro Street, 1 07

New horizons, Elysian tower, 8 07


 Rowing on The Marina, 6 07

Masonry, Lower Oliver Plunkett Street, 9 06

In Perspective, North Channel, 9 06


Autumn Leaves, Monahan Road, 11 07

Curving, North Mall, 11 07

Geometrics, Oliver Plunkett Street, 6 06

Mixing styles, Parliament Bridge, 1 07

Edgey, Parnell Place, 9 06

Elegance, Provincial Bank, 11 06

Climbing, Shandon Street, 7 06

Paths, South Mall, 11 06

Above the tree tops, South Mall, 9 07

Georgian Splendour, Eighteenth century houses, South Mall, 9 07

Routeways, South Ring Road, 9 06

Inscribed, Stained gass window, St Anne's Church, Shandon, 8 06

Youthful, St. Patrick's Street 5 07

Modernity, Brown Thomas, St. Patrick's Street, 7 07

Bridging ideas, St. Vincent's Bridge, 11 06

Marks, Graffiti, St. Vincent's Bridge, 6 07

Overlooking, St. Vincents Church, 1 07

Corners and cornicing, Concert Hall, Cork City

Overseeing, Stone scupture, Cork City Hall

 Hive of activity, count centre, local elections, City Hall, 6 6 09

Reaching, Bonded Warehouses,Cork Docks

Waiting, Cork Docks

Layered, quay wall, The Marina

Majestic, Blackrock Castle

Entering, Cork Docks

Spring awakening, North Mall

Ups and downs, Beyond St. Vincent's Bridge

Bridging ideas, Mardyke Bridge and St. Vincent's Church

Leaning, Fitzgerald's Park

Reflecting, River Lee, UCC grounds

Eroding, Broken Weir, North Channel, River Lee, Mardyke

Shaping, University College Cork

Modern, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, UCC grounds

Hidden, County Hall area

Vistas, Northside Cork City from Mardyke

Peaking, St. Mary's Church, Shanakiel

Style, Trinity Presbyterian Church 9 06

Atop, Docklands from Clarion Hotel, Lapp's Quay

Effort, Victoria Hotel, St. Patrick's Street, 9 06

Equality, Quaker Graveyard, Summerhill South

Shadows, Imperial Hotel entrance, South Mall

Horizons, Oliver Plunkett Street 6 09

Busy, St. Patrick's Street, 6 09

Carved, St. Patrick's Church, Lower Road

Angled, Maylor Street

Beyond the past, seventeenth century canon, Grand Parade

One direction? Nineteenth century steps, Lower Road

Autumnal beauty, South Mall, 9 08

Contrasts, Union Quay

Embedded, Union Quay

Play the piano, Caroline Street

Through the light, South Mall

Beyond the landscape, South Mall

'Shapeley', South Presentation Convent, Douglas Street

to be added to, please revisit…Kieran