February 16, 2015Feature

We spoke with Ángel Luis Gonzalez, Director at PhotoIreland, about Irish photography, photobooks and The Library Project space in Temple Bar


Since its beginnings as a book and magazine fair in 2011, The Library Project has become an artery of Dublin’s creative community. Ángel explains that after the fair they needed to find a way to show their extensive photobook collection to a wider audience.

“We contacted about 600 publishers to come to the fair in 2011. Some of them couldn’t make it so we asked for sample books and ended up with quite a substantial collection.

“When the festival was over we felt pressure to find ways in which we could show this collection to more people. There are little or no shops selling these books in Ireland, they are too specialised. It’s a small market, so many distributers don’t want to bring the books in. It’s a pity because many people miss out on experiencing these amazing publications.”

It was in this mission to share these photobooks that The Library Project came to be.

A place to call home

Ángel and the PhotoIreland team were moving from place to place for almost two years until the perfect space reared its head.

“We spent some time in places like Steambox near the Guinness Storehouse and as well as the Copper House Gallery. Eventually we were offered the space we currently occupy in Temple Bar with a one-month residency.”

For Ángel, this was the ideal venue to host the library of photobooks PhotoIreland had accumulated.

“It’s right in the city centre, so people don’t have to make a long trip to enjoy the books. Initially, the whole space was a library, there was no bookshop or gallery space, but in this area people have a commercial mind-set.

“Tourists would come in and want to buy the books, which was a nice way to realise that we could take it to that more commercial level. So we got back in contact with the publishers and told them we could now sell the books. We then put up a proposal to the owners of the space to remain here, and they said yes. Suddenly we had a bookshop, a library and gallery in one space.”

Last year The Library Project was hosting a different event or exhibition every week, as well as selling books and being a fully functioning library.

“Last year was mental. If it wasn’t an exhibition it was the launch of a book or a talk. It was non-stop. We had exhibitions from all types of artists, not just photographers. It has been an incredible way to let people know about the space.

“We wanted The Library Project to be an active hub in Temple Bar. But now the gears are changing, we want to focus more on the bookshop and offer our own works. We found that in the last two or three months there has been a lot of interest from people wanting to buy our works. That’s what we want in 2015. Less about events and more about letting people know that these books are accessible. It’s also a great way to support young, home-grown artists.”

4 Temple Bar, Dublin 2

“An indispensable tool…”

So what exactly is a photobook? According to Ángel absolutely every part of the book adds to the message.

“The closest comparison to a photobook is a kid’s book. A child’s book is designed as a whole, you don’t get a standard design with the story inside. Everything from the colour to the shape is part of the concept. It doesn’t mean you have to have a super complex book, but the decisions taken in the design process add to the story.

“The more the design engages with the actual artwork, the more reasons to call it a photobook.”

One of the core benefits to a photographer investing in a photobook is it’s cheaper than organising a whole exhibition.

“An exhibition runs for a couple of weeks with a certain amount of visitors and that’s it. In the last ten years producing these books has become more affordable. Now, nearly every photographer will make a book at some point to promote his or her work. It’s an indispensable tool.”

Irish works

The Irish photography community is undeniably blooming at the moment. There are more artists throughout the country than ever making a name for themselves, and in many cases The Library Project is at the helm.

“One of the prime examples of a photographer who rose to recognition rapidly is Eamonn Doyle. Last March we had an exhibition of his work here in our gallery. The same body of work ‘i’ was also placed on O’Connell Street.

“He sold 100 high quality books at the launch for €25 each. Then, a few weeks after the exhibition, Martin Parr, the Godfather of the photobook, said ‘i’ was the best book of street photography he had seen in over a decade. This meant everyone started to buy the book, so it quickly sold out. Now you could easily pay €300 to €600 or more for it.”

Other examples of talented Irish photographers include Paul Gaffney. According to Ángel the year in which Gaffney’s work ‘We Make the Path by Walking’ was released it was hard to miss the publication.

“He’s very methodical and he cares a lot about his work. The book has very particular paper, with a very particular presentation with the sequencing of the images. He ended up producing a very nice end product and the book is now sold out.

Eamon Doyle

Miriam O'Connor

Paul Gaffney

New Irish Works

“Some earlier examples of Irish photobooks can be seen in Miriam O’Connor’s work, ‘Attention Seekers’. She was a bit entrepreneurial and she found opportunities abroad with publishers. She went to Paris Photo, which a big fair held every November, and she actively looked for a publisher.

“The book itself has a very nice approach. It’s like William Eggleston, but it’s also very unique. I feel when you see one of these photos you instantly recognise it as Miriam O’Connor’s.”

The Library Project and PhotoIreland are constantly evolving and representing Irish artists. For more information on their library space as well as original publications visit their website



Images: Eric Davidson

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