presented by ARNAUD CLAASS
Born in 1949. Lives and works in France. Lecturer at the l’École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie d’Arles.
Of all the bodies of work I have had the chance to see in the last few years, Don Healy’s is definitely up there with the most powerful. I came across him in the spring of 2007 at the Institute of Arts, Design and Technology in Dublin, where I teach. Don was getting ready to show his pictures to the graduation jury, which recognised him as a particularly brilliant student. His Pigeon House Road series, for example, already revealed rare skill. Its subject is a group of Travellers ‘installed’ in a Dublin suburb and having to cope not only with the usual ostracism but also with especially difficult family circumstances. Healy’s images drew considerable attention in critical seminars at the Fotomuseum in Winterthur, then at festivals in Lithuania and Amsterdam. His current series Marko Polo looks at the situation of homeless Polish people in Ireland, a group whose numbers have been increasing steadily since
the economic crisis began. Of the hundreds of thousands who came from Eastern Europe during the boom, an alarming proportion are now living extremely precarious lives. In the work on show here Healy focuses specifically on a young man named Marko, but without demanding any sentimental identification on the viewer’s part. I see it as urgent that all possible encouragement be given to a photographer like Don Healy, who has such a perfect feel for distance in every sense of the word. With remarkable brio he reminds us just how necessary, in these times of (fascinating) technological challenges, are the values of close attention to the lives of others.
MARKO POLO (2008). In 2004, Poland became a full member of the EU. This has given a great opportunity to the Polish people to travel in search of better-paid work and a new beginning. Many travelled to Ireland, reaching up to 200,000 in recent times. Poles have had a significant influence in Irish society, setting up Polish newspapers and shops and adding to Ireland’s growing multi-cultural society. In 2008, due to the Irish and global economic downturn, many Polish became unemployed and returned home to a developing Poland. However, some people had no life to return to, preferring to stay on in Ireland in search of work and their dream of a better life, despite some being homeless. Marko, 35, is one of these people who are homeless, living in Dublin City, Ireland. Marko comes from Gdansk, and is divorced with two children. He moved to Dublin in 2006 and found work on a construction site. After losing his job in 2007, he remained on in Ireland, still in search of work. In 2007, Marko started squatting in a disused factory in Dublin with other homeless Polish men, where he stayed for over a year. There was no electricity or toilet, and rainwater was the only source of water. With the squat acting as a temporary home, Marko looked for work. However, due to Marko’s alcohol problem and his inability to take his situation more seriously, he has not found work and spends most days walking the streets and drinking alcohol with other Polish people in public and in his squat. In October 2008, the squat was closed up and Marko has since been sleeping in friends’ flats, under office building steps and in a car park. In March 2009, Marko started to attend a new Christian church in Dublin, which runs an alcohol rehabilitation programme. He is hoping to start this sixteen-month programme and get his life back in order.
96 PIGEON HOUSE ROAD (2005-2007). Travellers are a minority group, originating from Ireland, living a nomadic life with different cultural traditions from the majority of society. They travel around in caravans, parking in official and unofficial halting sites, including at the side of any road. Travellers marry as young as sixteen (the legal age to marry in Ireland), they have many children and strong family bonds. Travellers suffer a lot of discrimination due to their nomadic lifestyle, a lack of cultural respect from the majority of society and illegal activity in some cases. Ignorance in society treats most travellers in a negative way. From December 2005, I spent over a year and a half photographing the lives of the Maughan family living in an industrial area on the side of Pigeon House Road, Dublin, Ireland. This family lives in difficult circumstances. Rosie is divorced with thirteen children and takes care of her two remaining daughters living with her as well as her many grandchildren, who regularly stay with her. Rosie’s alcohol problem, the girls’ reluctance to attend school and the build-up of waste next to their caravan make life difficult. However, the humanity in Rosie and her family and their strong family spirit help them get through the chaos in their lives.
Don McNeill Healy
Prints by DUPON Digital Lab.
Framing by Jean-Pierre Gapihan.