JOHN MINIHAN is one of Ireland’s finest photographers and a new exhibition at the United Arts Club in Dublin is celebrating his work.
Born in Dublin in 1946, Minihan was raised in Athy from the age of four months. His father died before he was born; his mother abandoned him to the care of her sister before emigrating to England.
At the age of 11, Minihan went to live in London, leaving school to work as an office boy at the Daily Mail, where he began his career as a photographer. On trips back to Athy with his Rolleiflex, he began to photograph subjects there, starting with the wedding of a friend.
A style began to emerge, influenced at first by the work of Edward S Curtis, who documented the lives of Native Americans, and the work of the Hungarian Andre Kertesz, who pioneered the photography of the candid moment.
The crucial event that pulled Minihan’s Athy work together came in February 1977, when a local woman, Katie Tyrrell, died. Minihan asked a publican friend, Bertie Doyle, to ask her family for permission to photograph the wake. The family agreed, and for two days and three nights Minihan photographed the events from Tyrrell’s deathbed to her grave.
His photographs of Athy have been exhibited throughout the world and the critic Harold Hobson was moved to call them “sad, poignant and sublime”.
The exhibition contains, among others, images of his hometown Athy, which he returned to throughout his life as a source of “normal human life”. The exhibition runs until the end of May, see dublinarts.com.