HOLY JOE’S [ Conversation with Kim Cunningham : Part 3 ]

S:  How did you find out about Holy Joe’s?  ( Holy Joe’s is a 5 years project of which Kim documented the Irish community in North London).

K:  I was living in Highgate at the time, and became aware of the Irish community centre.  I was interested to see what it was about and who used it.  As an Irish person coming to London I never felt like an immigrant, but I stepped into a different time and experience.  I was immediately attracted to the place and the people but also intrigued at the same time.

S:  Do you still go back?
K:  Yes, I got to know a lot of people there and call in every time I pass by.

S:  It has taken you 5 years to put this set of work together.  Could you tell us a little about the process, or things you have witnessed during this process?
K:  For me photographing tends to be a long affair. Although there is an emphasis on the resolution of image making, for me it’s more about the process.  A bit of a never ending conclusion, reflective of the reality that inspires me.

S:  There is a sense of warmth and an undertone of comfort through all of your images of Holy Joe’s… how do you think ‘being Irish’ is conveyed through your work in Holy Joe’s?
K:  The people there made me feel so welcome and I was very much at ease taking the photographs.  Their sense of ‘Irishness’ and mine were worlds apart, and I found it almost mythical. I chose to leave my country but most of them had no choice.  National identity tends to be preserved as a result of emigration and this is what I wanted to convey in the images.

S:  Do you feel that there is any difference in the irish identity possessed by the people of Laytown, compared to the people of St Joseph’s (Holy Joe’s)? If so, how so
K:  The Irish identity in St.Joseph’s is as a result of emigration, so is nearly romanticised. In the Laytown series I’m not looking at national identity as such, but more on an individual level.

S:  What does the Irish spirit mean to you?
K:  I’ll let you know when I work it out!


See more of Kim’s work on www.kimcunningham.co.uk