In his work “Mugged”, photographer Eamonn Farrell captured an image of a naked woman screaming outside the unfinished Anglo Irish Bank headquarters in the Docklands.
In the photo, the naked shell of a building becomes a symbol of the collapse of the banks and the 2008 economic crash.
“Her pose and her stance was to reflect the fact that I hoped that there would be young people who would not be prepared to accept the consequences [of the crash],” says Farrell. “And would stand up and say ‘fuck off’.”
The building has since been completed with a golden facade and is now home to the Central Bank of Ireland.
In his latest work, Naked City, Farrell is displaying his art, virtually, across the city. All around Dublin he has superimposed artwork from his Elements of Nature series on disused billboards and boarded-up shop fronts.
Farrell says he thought of the idea for the exhibition when watching the photographs that were being taken by his colleagues in the photo agency in which he works.
“I was seeing images of a sad looking city with empty billboards and locked-up shops and I thought ‘hang on this is a canvas,” he says.
Farrell says he started out as a photojournalist many moons ago. Back then, he and his brother, Brian Farrell, saw themselves as magazine photographers, he says. But there wasn’t much work for that in Ireland.
He wanted to do social documentary work, he says. “When you start out as a photojournalist you have great ideas of what photojournalism is supposed to be about.”
Due to the nature of the work, Farrell says that he would both take photos and also write the stories, which was quite unusual at the time. In order to hide the fact that he was doing both jobs, which would have caused conflict with the journalism union, the NUJ, he began to write under a pseudonym.
“I was Mary, someone,” he recalls, laughing. “I can’t remember the surname now.”
As time went by and the media became more cash-strapped, Irish papers had even less space for images that were not directly connected to the news of the day, he says.
“You ended up as a simple press photographer with very little chance to be creative,” he says.
Elements of Nature
Within the Naked City digital exhibition, art photos from a series called Elements of Nature are displayed on billboards and boarded-up shop fronts all over the city.
Farrell was cocooning during this time, due to Covid-19, so he asked his granddaughter, Leah Farrell who is also a photographer, to photograph the empty billboards.
Elements of Nature is a series of work exploring climate change and the destruction of the planet by using the female form, in various landscapes.
In time he expanded the theme to tackle the economic crash and the role of women in Irish society.
One of the photographs is also called “Elements of Nature”, and features a shipwreck scene on a beach in County Louth.
The massive decaying shipwreck dwarfs a female figure naked with her arms crossed.
“It shows the power of nature – if that huge piece of metal cannot compete with nature, how can we?” says Farrell. “We are so weak and vulnerable but we have convinced ourselves that we are indestructible.”
In Awe of Nature
In the digital exhibition, an artwork called “In Awe of Nature” jazzes-up a spot on the North Circular Road, as passers-by in masks walk on.
An ancient dolmen in the Burren is the set for the photo which shows a naked female model, half kneeling with her hands clasped looking up at the sky.
“I wanted to get a sense of what it was like in prehistoric times and people’s relationship with nature and their understanding of what was happening,” he says.
It is easy to understand why, when there was thunder, or the crops failed people turned to superstition and religion for explanations, says Farrell.
Nowadays we know a bit more about what causes things. Yet some people are more comfortable with ignorance, he says.
“A lot of it is out of our control,” says Farrell. “But part of it is within our control. If we decide how we are going to maintain the planet and keep it alive.”
Farrell would love to see these photographs physically displayed in Dublin city centre. “Some days I get to thinking that they are really there,” he says laughing.
But “you have to ask the question – how real is it? Are we going to end up living in a fantasy world?” says Farrell.