Making the case for Cork’s civic space

Harry Moore was born in Zambia, but has spent recent years photographing the rapidly-changing city that provides his adopted home, writes Ellie O’Byrne

Photographer Harry Moore
Photographer Harry Moore

AS CORK city enters a period of growth that is supposed to see it double in size by 2040, conversations about how the development of the Rebel city are cropping up with increasing frequency.

From controversies surrounding the proposed Lee flood works, to a mixed response to plans for high rise in the second city’s skyline, it’s clear there are different visions for how Cork can develop without losing its unique character.

Photographer and sound artist Harry Moore’s life is a tale of at least two cities, but he has lived and worked in Cork for almost 30 years and has integrated himself into the cultural life of his adopted home, so perhaps it’s no surprise that he has strong feelings about Cork’s future.

“I’d love to see the city centre maintained with as many local shops as possible,” Moore says, sitting in the appropriate setting of Fitzgerald’s Park on a bright, cold winter’s morning. “It’s so sad when you walk around Cork and it’s the same signage that you see in London, Shanghai and Paris.”

Moore worked as production manager for Graffiti theatre company, as CE scheme supervisor for Lee currach-building social enterprise Meitheal Mara and was artistic director of Cork Art Trail in the early Noughties, before teaching photography at St John’s College of Further Education.

He made Cork his home in 1990, having graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in London in his thirties. Even before that, he says, the city was instrumental in his journey towards being an artist.

“I did all sorts of stuff in London; I was a furniture restorer, a milkman. It was the breakdown of my marriage that set me wild and I decided I wanted to start drawing again. I actually visited Cork in 1982 and got a job modelling in the art college, which led to me going, ‘hey, this is where I need to be: in an art college.’ I went back to London and went to the Slade.”

Born in Zambia to Australian parents, Moore’s early life was peripatetic, following his father’s career as a miner for a US multinational through various parts of Africa and Australia.

Having attended boarding school in Croydon in his teens, Moore followed his parents to their new home in Apartheid-era South Africa at 17, where he quickly found himself in trouble with the police for failing to abide by segregation.

“I ignored Apartheid and went on non-white buses and mixed with non-whites, which was everyone from Indian and African backgrounds,” he says. “I wasn’t very careful; I was pretty wild I suppose. I couldn’t return to South Africa, even though my parents lived there, until Mandela was out of prison.”

Moore has lived in Cork through a period of rapid change. When he arrived first, he says, “Cork was very run-down and there wasn’t a lot happening. But it was a magical place.”

Frequently working with sound, performance and video, he has also found an anchor for his art in photography, specifically in long exposures that capture his fascination with time. Cork’s docklands, parks and architectural landmarks feature heavily in his work, which often utilises self-made pinhole cameras.

“The exposure time is about ten minutes, so it’s almost like cubism; you’re capturing different sides of things. Things happen in the photograph that get registered,” says Moore, who takes his photographs on 120 film and scans the negatives to produce digital prints.

“I think something happens in analogue that you don’t get in digital photography. With digital, there’s no chemical reaction; the light hasn’t burned into the chemicals.”

One of the pictures in his joint exhibition in Fitzgerald’s Park.
One of the pictures in his joint exhibition in Fitzgerald’s Park.

Moore is amongst five photographers featured in From the Darkroom, a group exhibition of work all of which has been produced in Sample Studios’ darkroom on the outskirts of Cork city. The timely theme of the exhibition is recreational space in the city; artists can, Moore feels, add greatly to the public discourse on civic space.

“The public space must be protected in the city,” he says. “There needs to be care for pedestrians, cyclists, for the people of the city. The council have been doing piecemeal things, but they really need to work on public space.”

From The Darkroom, featuring the work of Harry Moore, Paolo Bergomi, Frank McGrath, Catriona Osborne and Stela Roibas, is at the Lord Mayor’s Pavilion in Fitzgerald’s Park from Nov 14-23

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