Photography, Theatre

Photos from London Town, February 2013

Click each picture to enlarge.

With Danielle Hope, who plays Éponine in the stage show Les Misérables
En route to see Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue
With Jamie Ward, who plays Marius
Who Do You Think You Are Live: Tessa Dunlop interviews Samantha Womack
Outside the Queen’s Theatre
WDYTYA Live: Richard III talk
Les Mis
A choir sings at the Victoria and Albert Museum

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My Thoughts on Photography

As most of the people I know can loudly and grievously attest to, I am an avid photographer. I love taking spontaneous snapshots of anything, really, particularly of the captivating and stunning landscapes dotted around Europe (see what I thought of the U.K.’s capital city). It’s so easy to whip out your digital camera abroad; in a matter of seconds, you can document the lively buzz and roaring atmosphere of Rome, or capture the sombre presence of a majestic cathedral in Cologne, or portray the beautiful stillness of life in Connemara.

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Galway, taken on 02/04/2011

Photographs record our memories: friends that made us laugh, places we visited, a childhood pet. The magic of photography is that pictures can be recorded for posterity, eternally documenting major, significant events from our nation’s past for future generations as well as those smaller, more personal moments from our lives. A picture defies traditional boundaries of gender, age or race. It can envelop so many heartfelt sentiments, individual characters and different historical eras, even though it’s just a still image. Whether it takes a spectacular monochrome form or explodes with vivid, clashing and swirling colour, a photo triggers a deep, natural and essentially human response within us: emotion.

It’s the visual nature of photos that make them so intriguing and invaluable: the core of their purpose is that they encapsulate the unsaid. Photography conveys the true essence of life, grabbing and illuminating a brief moment in history, to hold in your hands. It can catch the dancing sunlight in someone’s eyes, reveal the joy of a single euphoric moment, or show the grief etched in an old widow’s face, frozen in the frame of time.

A photo is an echo of the past. We can never know what it was like to be there, but using archival photography, we can imagine what it was like to be amongst the crowd on that day, or what we would have felt as we watched eagle-eyed from a balcony. It can help us try to understand the incidents that unfolded.
The essence of photography gives it a unique appeal to everyone: professional historians sharply examine old pictures with a skilled and trained eye, as a firsthand document and primary source of the period they are researching; commercial artists, fashion models and paparazzi rely on the photojournalism industry for a living – using it to publicise and advertise brand names or to sell products – often building famed and well-established careers and earning hard cash for each portrait they produce; family members cherish the memories they have from looking at the framed snaps of their young niece or beloved old friend, far away in a distant country, not knowing when they’ll see them next.
Photography is of undeniable importance. Massive historical events like the first man on the moon, the announcement of the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 or even last April’s English Royal Wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton are painstakingly recorded by the world’s media for not only our benefit, but to preserve our immediate past for the analysation and social commentary of future generations.

The perspective of the photographer, both physically and mentally, will alter the image they take for the viewer: the same photo they take may be interpreted differently by every single person that sees it, who will have a distinctive emotional reaction to it. The photo can be manipulated, edited or discreetly altered, because a photograph is fundamentally an image that serves a purpose: it’s taken by the photographer to make you feel something.

Every picture will outlast the mortal human beings within it. We will always feel a connection to the haunted faces staring out of dusty portraits, daring the present not to forget their pain or lose them to oblivion, loudly claiming their place as people that once inhabited this earth, reminding us that they too had hopes and thoughts and heartache. Their very soul gazes out from that last remaining piece of them. That tiny scrap of a photo marks their legacy on this planet, and one day will mark ours.

I have many photos plastering the walls of my room – relatives, old friends, new friends, holidays and birthdays. But I also have empty photo frames propped on the table, given as gifts, that are not yet filled, patiently waiting for more good memories from my life to complete them.

The only remaining piece of my great-great-grandparents’ legacy, their family portrait: Daniel McKenna and Mary Hanafin, c. 1910

Why I Love London

London is one of the greatest cities in the world. The blend of the ancient and modern alluringly combine in England’s capital to make it one of the most diverse and wonderful landscapes to explore: from beholding the might of King Henry VIII’s five-hundred-year-old Hampton Court Palace to going for a spin on the tallest Ferris Wheel in Europe, the ‘London Eye’.

Hampton Court Palace, dating from the Tudor era – Photo from its official site

London’s ability to grab and captivate the imagination of artists and writers extends back almost two millennia, inspiring countless works of outstanding creative merit – from Shakespeare to Dickens to Rowling, to name a few – and it’s no wonder. Majestic landmarks are dotted around almost every corner of the city centre. Even the Queen calls London her home (the iconic Buckingham Palace, of course, being her residence). The rich and diverse history and heritage of the United Kingdom’s capital city beckons generations of people all over the world to be enchanted by it.

It’s so easy to wander around the hubbub of the British city; the mixture of cultures, personalities and lifestyles give an eclectic yet fun feel to London. As the sun comes up, traditional jet-black cabs zoom past iconic motion picture locations and very familiar settings and sights from classic British films, such as ‘James Bond’, ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Children of Men’. The buzz and bustle of the capital merges to become one continuous low rumble: the locals frantically rush to work, the wide-eyed tourists clutch video cameras as they pass on the top deck of the scarlet-red bus tour and lighthearted buskers strum along on their guitar. Fragments of music notes and scattered chords echo along the market streets, accompanied by vocals in the crisp English accents that I adore.

No matter what your passions in life are, you will find something to fuel them during your London experience. Nightlife throbs, bright lights flash and flicker, and wellies squelch at summer festivals. There are many chaotic and fun sides to the city, but there is also a deeply serene atmosphere about London, even in the midst of the hype and intensity: there is a unique vibe of coolness intermingled with true beauty, found in very few places on Earth.

My favourite aspect of London, though? The more you see of the vast city, you still haven’t seen it all. All its wonders will still be there for you to treasure upon your return…which means you have another reason to come back.

Marése O’Sullivan

Exploring the city around the unbelievably beautiful Westminster, 9/07/2011