Breaking new ground

WE’VE had a lot of dark clouds of late, very little silver lining, so Enda Cavanagh’s transformation into a full-time multiple award-winning photographer makes for a very uplifting tale.

A successful architect for over 16 years, in Ireland and Berlin, Cavanagh had always ‘dabbled’ in photography. In 2007, he was asked by his then employers to photograph one of their projects, Jury’s Hotel, Lancaster Gate, in Cork city. On the strength of this one commission, he splurged €50,000 on a state of the art Hasselblad 39 camera and assorted accessories.

“I have a very understanding fiancée,” Enda laughs. “I got them the morning I travelled down to Cork on the train to do the job — I spent the whole journey going through the manuals.” But his employers, Henry J Lyons, one of Ireland’s leading architectural practices, were delighted with the finished product.

Cavanagh reckoned photography — architectural, commercial and his fine art landscape pictures — could make for a handy sideline. Cue recession.

“I had been able to invest in the equipment because I had the security of the day job,” says Cavanagh, “but bit by bit the recession hit architecture.

“I was doing a lot of work under a lot of pressure and had become a bit disillusioned. I decided to commit to photography full time. It’s what I love and I want to do it for the rest of my life. It has been an absolute rollercoaster since then, just brilliant.”

Actually, to say he ‘dabbled’ is a complete misnomer; he received his first camera from an uncle when he was 13 and has been a passionate photographer ever since. Since turning professional, he has been chosen for exhibition by the RHA and picked up a silver and three bronzes in the European Professional Photographer of the Year awards. His work as a design-focussed architect has enabled him to translate an appreciation for form and composition to both his fine art and commercial work. Though a longtime city-dweller, this native of Skreen, Co Sligo, has always retained an affinity for the countryside; those contrasting aspects are very evident in his exquisitely produced book, Exploring the Irish Landscape.

* Exploring the Irish Landscape by Enda Cavanagh; €34.95; See for further details

Lough Easkey, County Sligo 2 (left): Selected by the International Environmental Photographers Association (IEPA) for exhibition in Japan. “It was taken near Skreen four or five years ago, the wheel sticking out is quite skeletal. I find there’s a beauty in decay so this is just another element in the landscape. The Irish personality is quite chaotic and this photo reflects that.”

Sand in Motion, The Pigeon House (top left): Best Single Landscape image 2010, Irish Professional Photographers Association (IPPA). “This is an area in Ringsend, out by the Poolbeg Power Station and you really do feel like you’re at the end of Dublin and there’s nothing beyond that point. It’s really peaceful, especially in the early morning, the same feeling I get in the countryside. That morning was beautiful but extremely windy so the vibration was causing the camera to wobble. I took shot after shot after shot before I got this one. The sand was so graceful, dancing around the rocks and across the road.”

Cliffs at Cahercommaun Fort, The Burren (above): Irish viewers of Cavanagh’s landscape pictures are often surprised to find they are looking at shots of the Irish countryside. African plains or Louisiana swamplands are just some of the places his images have managed to evoke.

“To me, this one is more like the south of France, Provence. I love the way the picture is divided by the wall. On the left, the bushes could be inviting you into a haunted forest, it is quite sinister, and then on the right it is a much more conventional romantic landscape photo.”


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