All posts tagged Photo

  • An angel reaches


    An Angel reaches
    in morning fog.
    Silently, it calls;
    more silent this morning.

    A filter enhances

    Obscured and clarified,

  • Researching with your Smartphone

    On a recent trip to St Gobnait’s Well in Ballyvourney, I used my phone to capture some of the sounds, sights and movements of the place. The capabilities of smartphones and the selection of Apps are making it increasingly possible for all researchers, especially qualitative minded ones, to have a wonderfully versatile device with them at all times. It is now standard for a phone to be a camera, video and audio recorder, and notebook, while all the time connecting you to the internet. While the compact and multipurpose nature means that a phone does not have a quality of each of these items individually, they are a functional everyday tool which offers new potential for research, encounter and dissemination.

    There also has been emerging comment on the use of phones and apps in research. Katharine Welsh and Derek France state that the “multi-tasking and portable nature of a smartphone renders the device an ideal data collection tool” and that “e educational potential offered by smartphones will likely increase over time.” (Smart Phones and Fieldwork). While Jay Zaltzman and Betsy Leichliter point out a whole range of real-time communications and recordings now possible that “can be used to share participants’ experiences and perceptions in more ways than ever” (Mobile Qualitative Research).

    GW VL Tw

    A photo taken during the fieldwork was then sent using Twitter. This serves to both record and disseminate.

    Also, phones offer a means of instant dissemination as all recordings, along with micro commentary, can be immediately posted online. This also ties in with the recognition of the role of social media as a means of communicating research and engaging the public.

    Here are some of the items collected and transmitted using my phone on the trip. I was able to use the phone and apps together to take photos, to make audio recordings and record video, and then transmit these using the apps.

    The Soundcloud App is particularly handy as you can easily record (and pause and resume recording) edit and post the clip. This App actually captures nicely how easier apps than older tools, even using recording devices and computers together.

    Instagram allows you to record, edit and upload video, while also instantly sharing the post via social media sites.

    The massive leaps in technology and capabilities mean that we can only speculate on the tools that will be available for research an the potential they will over. In the meantime, get exploring and transmitting.


    Smart Phones and Fieldwork from Enhanced

    Mobile Qualitative Research from  New

  • The Holy Well and Holy Wells

    While holy wells can be found across Ireland, each one as a unique character. The physical location, site features, number of visitors, votive offerings, origins, saintly or supernatural associations and numerous other elements all combine to make each spot distinct. To this we can add the context of the visit – the time (both in a day and seasonally), the purpose, whether we are alone or with others – and the meanings and emotions we, and others, bring to the site.

    Ronan Foley (2011, p. 470) outlines how holy wells “range from literal holes in the ground to substantial landscaped sites with a mix of natural and culturally introduced elements. In general, the sites contain the wells themselves, streams, stone crosses and covers, paths, trees and bushes, altars and statues, all of which have physical form but wider symbolic meanings as well”. His description captures some of the variety that one finds materially at holy wells, while also hinting at how features combine to create each one.

    A selection of holy wells (clockwise, from top left): Sunday’s Well, Raffeen, Cork, a simple well in the hillside that is frequented by a small number of locals; St Patrick’s Well Mam Éan, Connemara, a well on a mountain pass surrounded by a walled enclosure with a collection of votive offerings; St John’s Well, Newhall, Clare, an enclosed well with an altar, several statues and a shrine, the site is visited on June 23rd, St John’s Eve; ‘Tubrid’, Millstreet, Cork, an elaborate well-site with a Marion Grotto, an sheltered altar, railings and a landscaped environment, an annual mass is celebrated on a Friday in May.

    A selection of holy wells (clockwise, from top left): Sunday’s Well, Raffeen, Cork, a simple well in the hillside that is frequented by a small number of locals; St Patrick’s Well Mam Éan, Connemara, a well on a mountain pass surrounded by a walled enclosure with a collection of votive offerings; St John’s Well, Newhall, Clare, an enclosed well with an altar, several statues and a shrine, the site is visited on June 23rd, St John’s Eve; ‘Tubrid’, Millstreet, Cork, an elaborate well-site with a Marion Grotto, an sheltered altar, railings and a landscaped environment, an annual mass is celebrated on a Friday in May.

    While it makes sense for any study of holy wells to engage with them both collectively and individually, that process should remain conscious of the uniqueness of each site and how that affects and shapes our understandings.


    Foley, R. 2011. Performing Health in Place: The Holy Well as a Therapeutic Assemblage. Health & Place, 17, pp. 470-479.

  • Collaging the Beds

    The ‘Beds’ are one of the most prominent features associated with the Lough Derg pilgrimage. The six Penitential Beds – small low circular walled structures – are the remnants of monastic beehive huts. They form a central part of the Stations which pilgrims perform during their stay on the island. This post is a collage of images and texts which centre on the beds.

    At each of the beds, pilgrims walk barefoot three times around the outside; kneel at the entrance, walk the interior three times and kneel at the cross; during each of these they say three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys and one Creed.

    LD Beds Coll 1

    This image is a collection of different photos I took over three days in mid-July. By connecting a selection of separate, but related, moments, it is possible to see the beds in a fuller manner. A segment from the morning shows only one or two pilgrims, while the afternoon slices – in the centre – has the beds crowded and silently bustling, and, then, the evening photos present empty beds. They are simultaneously spots of movement and pause, physicality and ethereality, and presence and absence.

    Every performance of the beds, by each individual, is a new experience. It links the present realities with the prayers and intentions of each person. Also, they are following the paths trod by those who have gone before. Personal and social memories mix with the pilgrimage, as the recent and distant pasts are felt to be present here. The circling and pauses intermix the physical practice and the intentions of the pilgrims so that the beds are both continuity and change.

    To this visual presentation of the beds, I wish to add a textual component. Three relatively random quotes about the beds, garnished from historical and contemporary sources I am using in my research, show other perspectives on the beds.  Alice Curtayne, writing in 1933, described the activity on that beds as being “endless files of pilgrims, walking, kneeling, dipping, murmuring” which made “a scene fantastic beyond all telling” (p.13). I find parallels between her thinking and my own, as when the beds are in use, particularly with a larger crowd, they are alive. The sheer motion of so many people completing a complex set of rituals animate the place and create a unique scene.

    T.R. Gogarty’s account from twenty years earlier is similarly evocative, albeit a bit more penitential. “Paths, worn and quarried by human feet through rocks that wrench and stones that bend every ambulatory muscle with a pain” (p.809). This highlights the intensely carnal nature of the pilgrimage. A focus on the interactions of the unprotected feet and the rough, yet eroded, rock captures so much of what the beds are for pilgrims. Simon Kennedy’s poem Lough Derg, in a lovely recent collection, Pilgrims’ tales … and more, gives a simple structure to the pilgrims encounter with the beds: “Barefoot pilgrim meander | Over your hobble stones | Of penitential beds. | St Patrick – Pray for us. | St Brigid – Pray for us. | St Columba – Pray for us.” (p.90). The physical activity, the personified island and saintly invocations mingle at this place.


    Curtayne, A., 1933. St Patrick’s Purgatory: The sanctuary of Station Island, Lough Derg or An excursion into the fifth century. Anthonian Press, Dublin.

    Gogarty, T.R., 1913. Some pilgrim impressions of Lough Derg, (with several photographs). The Catholic Bulletin, 3, pp.800–813.

    McDaid, M. and McHugh, P. eds., 2000. Pilgrims’ tales … and more. Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Columba Press.

  • Christmas Lights

    Christmas lights are one of the most prominent ways in which the festive season makes a (visual) impact on the landscape. This part of the world has, over the past 10-15 years, witnessed increased participation in the practice of illuminating the exterior of houses and gardens with Christmas lights. This has been seen as one of the many Christmas practices which the Irish and the British have adopted from the North Americans. In the Republic of Ireland, the adoption of Christmas lights can be linked to the display-of-wealth and neighbourly-competitiveness that accompanied the Celtic Tiger in the 2000s.

    Based on a desire to explore the light displays in Cork and to compose a blog-post, I, along with my girlfriend (research associate), drove around the city in search of illuminations. The meandering route had vague destinations that were intermixed with random detours and wanderings. Upon the discovery of a noteworthy house – based entirely on our opinions on the richness and quantity of the displays – we slowed down, stopped momentarily and took a photo with a standard digital camera. The nature of the photos were influenced by the quality of the device, the inclement weather and the desire not to linger excessively outside private residences.

    In journeying, we speculated on the topic of Christmas lights as the focus of a PhD study, and found that with little effort a considerable range of social and cultural factors could be linked to the displays, including variation based on socio-economic areas, the meaning behind decorating a house, the influence of US American culture, any possible cluster of displays, the opinions of the owners, neighbours and passers-by, and so on. As with all good academic musing, the subject at hand was successfully related to all major social, cultural, political and economic issues, both historical and contemporary.

    A number of brief observations were made throughout the evening’s engagement with the Christmas illuminated landscape. Firstly, there did seem to be a general correlation between the displays and socio-economic areas, with working-class and lower-middle class areas having a greater number of very elaborate displays, compared to the more sombre illuminations of middle-class areas. In fact, many middle-class areas were devoid of exterior lights, although there was usually some effort an internal illumination, such as Christmas trees or candle arches in the windows. Next, there were several instances of clustering effects, with a number of houses in a row having similar types and scales of decorations – this may lead to observations of competitiveness, social norms and other factors.

    Thirdly, this is a night-time spectacle. Christmas lights and such decorations are enjoyed, consumed and noticed in the dark, while in daylight the wires are visible, the shapes obscure and the overall impression is absent. The illumination of the landscape in the dark hours of the winter symbolises the role of the festivities in Northern Europe, as the dreary night-time is transformed by the injection of complex and coloured arrangements of lights.

    Christmas Lights 12 1

    A series of rows and strings of light on a house near Ballintemple, although being an plentiful display it is still largely within the character of the house and surrounding area, as the lights are attached to the architecture features and shrubbery, thus, highlighting what is already present.

    CL 12 2

    This display near Ballinlough has additional lighted features, such as the reindeer and Santa climbing, which make it a distinct spectacle, especially as the surrounding residences mainly lack exterior illuminations.

    Cl 12 3

    The presence of candle arches in each of the windows creates a subtle Christmas display in this house near Ballyphehane. These arches, which originated in Northern European tradition, became very popular about 20 years ago, and can be found in the windows of many houses.

    CL 12 4

    A very elaborate illuminated collection covers this town house near Churchfield. The intensity of the display is emphasised by the fact that the entirety of the front of the house seems to be adorned with some feature or other. The photo captures a fraction of the sheer glow of the scene.

    CL 12 5

    The giant blow up Santa and snowman in front of this house near Ballyvolane make this a relatively unique display.

    Suggested reading: 

    Edensor and Millington (2009) ‘Illuminations, Class Identities and the Contested‘, Sociology, 43 (1), pp. 103 -121.

  • Railings at St Olan’s

    The photo is focused on one of the railings by St Olan’s Well, Aghbullogue, Cork. The well is located next to a bend on the road, on the outside, where a railing, made up of a number of metal posts and two chains running parallel, separates the well-space from the road. The railings, which are each topped by a cross, and the chains are painted black, and the crosses white – which creates a nice feature. Although, the wearing of the chains as left many of the links with rusty patches. Blurred in the backround is the well’s beehive-structure and the Whitethorn tree that is growing out of it, and, to the right, a statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart.

    The railings and similar features may not initially seem to be that significant; however, these components all contribute to the place and its character. Places can be considered to be assemblages of different elements, including natural features, representations, practices and objects. In this context, the St Olan’s well-space is the combined result of the well, the structure, the location, the performances of devotions, the railings and much more. As well as being an aesthetically pleasant focus, this photo literally foregrounds the role of elements such as the railings, which may otherwise be considered incidental.

  • The Path: Croagh Patrick


    This collection of images represents the main path on Croagh Patrick. Most people who climb the mountain do so along this route, which runs from Murrisk, with a car park and amenities, up the to main ridge, along a section of that ridge and then up the Reek proper. This path is what defines the Croagh Patrick experience for most people. Its uneven surface, its weaving up the ridge and its loose screen shape the climb. The devoted pilgrim, the curious tourist and eager hillwalker all engage with the same trail, each experiencing it in their own way.

    Photos, clockwise from top left-hand corner: the statue of St Patrick at the base of the mountain; walkers moving through a narrow gap in a small ridge shortly into the climb; the path weaving up the northern slope of the main ridge; looking down on Casán Phádraig (the path of St Patrick) with its steep incline and loose scree; a group of pilgrims eating and chatting in the shelter of the chapel on the summit; Casán Phádraig climbs up the scree on the side of the Reek.

  • Sharing Cork

    Sharing Cork was a project I ran as an experiment for Geography Awareness Week 2012. I was interested in  developing an online project and engaging with social media.

    This year was the first time there was a Geography Awareness Week national programme being run in Ireland, with the Geographical Society of Ireland (GSI) in conjunction with the Association of Geography Teachers in Ireland (AGTI) coordinating the events. Sharing Cork was run as part of this, which assisted in its promotion.

    Sharing Cork was an online project which centred on my home city of Cork. It aimed to use social media to crowd-source contributions. I asked people to record (photo, video, audio recording, drawing etc) a part of their daily life and share it. Emphasis was put on the everyday angle behind the project.

    Participation in the project was explained as being as simple as ‘Record, Share, Enjoy’. Someone was to take a photo (or make a video, record audio, drawing or painting) of a place, activity or encounter from our daily life. Then, they shared it using  email, Twitter, Facebook, or by sharing a link from a site/page where they hosted their materials (eg. youtube, flicker, wordpress, audioboo).  Contributions were gathered, collated and shared in one place (via this site) for everyone to enjoy and hopefully learn from it.

    As well as being an interesting project for Geography Week, I intended to use it as a means of engaging with social media as a tool and to practice developing a site and online project. I consider it a success in terms of the latter motivation. I was able to use WordPress to generate a site and then link it in with social media. That link proved essential as both the Twitter and Facebook incarnations of the project generated specific interactions and contributions. The experiment with social media was limited in its impact, but nonetheless it showed the potential for the use of these platforms in research.

    Overall, I was reasonably pleased with the endeavour. The technical aspects worked, I got some contributions and I am more convinced than ever  about the growing role that social media and the web will play in research.

    The stats

    Website: It received 187 views (a unknown, but sizeable portion were from me). Monday 12th Nov was the day it received the most views, with 72 hits.

    Facebook page: 37 Likes (15 of whom are friends of mine on Facebook); the ‘Reach’, the number of individual people who have seen a post, of individual posts ranged from 0 to 43; there were 33 posts on the page, 26 of which were by me.

    Twitter: The twitter account had 43 followers, with it following 125 accounts – most followers seem to respond to being followed (especially since most were Cork-based organisations or businesses who have an interest in generating and connecting with followers). The account received 15 mentions and 19 retweets, 10 of which were by me via other accounts.

    Improvements for next year

    If I am going to do this, or something like it, next year (or in the use of websites and social media for my research), there are several lessons learnt:

    • Start early and promote in the lead up: I developed the project late, within a few days of the actual Week, and had little time to get the word out.
    • Engage with people and organisations that have strong social media presence: A retweet or a posting form the right person or organisation can have a significant impact. Also, contributions can be solicited from people or representatives directly.
    • Be persistent  In the ‘shallow’ online world, which has little memory, you need to ensure you have a continuing presence and relevance.

    Some Contributions


    Outside the Geography Building, UCC: 8am 2/11/12

    The WWI Memorial monument, South Mall, on 11th November, shortly before the commemoration event.

    St Finbarre’s Cathedral at night. While it looks beautifully lit here, one person I know who lives close finds the constant yellow glow in the sky a disturbance… (Courtesy of S. O’Connor).

    Foggy Cork, Glucksman Gallery, UCC (7.56am 15/11/12). It’s one of those foggy mornings that completely transforms the landscape, even in the city. While UCC is, in places, a green oasis within the city, this part of its character is emphasised in the fog, when visibility is limited. In the closeness of the fog everything seems quiet and isolated.

    Afternoon tea in the The Montenotte Hotel #gaw #sharingCork (Courtesy of M. Murphy).