Sunday, November 20, 2016


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The Reek (Croagh Patrick) is not only a familiar site in the West of Ireland, it is a site of pilgrimage, on a par with Lough Derg. This is a sacred mountain, the like of which is found in many religions and cultures throughout the world.

It is from here that St. Patrick is supposed to have banished the demons from Ireland, which event heralded in the era of Saints and Scholars. Accompanying the demons on their outward passage were the snakes, for whose banishment the saint has been given even greater credit in the history books.

Alison Lindsay

Alison Lindsay introduced the subject matter of the evening. Although coming from a "long and lauded legal lineage" her principal qualification on the night was that she was from Mayo and could therefore speak with authority on the Reek. Her other qualifications tell us that she would never judge a book by its cover, fine and all as that cover might be. In the event she was unstinting in her praise of Atlantic Tabor in all its manifestations.

Pat Claffey

Pat Claffey, coming from Roscommon, has a long interest in this holy mountain. Along with two Polish photographers, Tomasz Bereska and Tomasz Szustek, he has just authored this book on the subject. It had its Dublin launch (17/11/2016) in the magnificent church of St. Mary, Haddington Road, where Pat is currently a curate.

Pat Claffey

If you are expecting dramatic scenic shots with dawnings, sunsets and moonlight, forget it. The photography is not about the mountain as geography, it is about the pilgrims themselves.

There are two strands of photographs running in parallel though the book.

One is the portraits of individual pilgrims. These are all in the same style as though you were standing in front of them talking to them. They are almost all full page colour images. Strictly speaking they should all look the same, but what distinguishes them apart are the actual people themselves.

The photos are posed in the sense that the subjects were standing in front of the camera in the full knowledge that their photo was being taken. But that is as far as it goes. There is no playing up to the camera. There is no sense of self consciousness. There is no posturing in this place. It is as though the camera were a fellow pilgrim and both defer in all humility to this holy place.

Each pilgrim is simply identified by a caption with their given name and where they are from. It is a very effective technique as it forces you to make the pilgrim's acquaintance through the photograph itself.

This was a brave editorial decision and it comes off very well.

The second strand is a series of black and white photos of various sizes and angles which set the atmosphere and introduce you to the surroundings and travails of the pilgrimage itself. These photos are of individual pilgrims or groups of pilgrims, many of them stressed out. They also pick out individual details like the rough stones beneath the pilgrims' feet or the hands fingering the rosary at St. Patrick's bed.

And yes there are some dramatic scenic shots which bring you up against the scale and intensity of the landscape and introduce you to the ebb and flow of the eternal mist.

Tomas Szustek, Tomasz Bereska, Alison Lindsay, Pat Claffey

Pat Claffey's text examines the mountain under a series of headings and fully conveys the history, mystery and dogged endurance of this shrine at the heart of its people. You can get some small flavour of it from his piece in the Irish Times.

And the title?

Mount Tabor is held to be the location of the Transfiguration of Christ in the gospels and Pat Claffey is drawing a parallel between it and the Reek with whose dimensions and shape it roughly corresponds.

Tomas Szustek, Pat Claffey, Tomasz Bereska

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