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August 16, 2018
This month Artisans & Adventurers is proud to host an exhibition of photographs by acclaimed photographer, Aidan O'Neill. The exhibition is in aid of Irish humanitarian charity Trōcaire, that does important work in over twenty developing countries.
Aidan is a Dublin born portrait, documentary and fashion photographer. His work has appeared in publications such as Elle UK, Vogue.com, Porter Magazine, Notion and The Huffington Post. We catch up with Aidan to see what inspires him and why he has chosen to move away from the fashion industry into the charity sector.
1. How did you get into photography?
My father always had a camera around his neck so I guess thats really how the seed was planted but it wasn't until I went to art school and experienced a dark room that I was fully hooked. I had no idea what I wanted to create but the process, the chemicals, the smells, they all got me. I knew pretty early on that this was going to be my path
2. You do a lot of charitable work which we really admire, why is this important to you and how do you feel you most make a difference as a photographer?
It's funny, only four or so years ago I was happy in my own little world not worrying about anyone or anything much else outside my small circle of friends or work. Then a random collaboration with Victoria Beckham and an organisation called mothers2mothers changed everything. My eyes were opened to so many injustices in the world that it made it really difficult to continue on in the fashion industry without at least trying to make some sort of a difference. How big that difference is? I'm not sure, I guess its hard to answer that when you're on the inside but to get out and tell someones story that may never be heard feels like the right thing to do. Making connections with people is the ultimate reason for doing this work and maybe the biggest difference I'm making is in myself..... so maybe it's a selfish act.... I'm still not sure.
3. Can you tell us a little about your forthcoming exhibition at Artisans & Adventurers?
While living in Kenya last year working on a personal project documenting the slums of Kibera, I approached Trócaire offering my services as I was in the country. We met, chatted about their different projects and started to make work almost immediately. I would travel with a small team of their staff to some of the most remote areas in Kenya to document the amazing work they doing. Trócaire is a really big deal in Irish culture. They do a campaign over lent that is most children's introduction to the needs of people beyond our borders so to be able to work with them was such an honour.
4. Your work often takes you to remote places and tackles difficult subjects. What has been your most challenging moment so far?
Well randomly the day before I was due to return home after my stint in Kenya, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and I got a call to see if I would fly directly in, to work on an ongoing dog rescue project I'm involved in with Wild at Heart Foundation. After a quick one day stop over in New York (complete head spin) we flew into Puerto Rico on a plane full of volunteers and military. Conditions on the ground were pretty tough, no water, electricity, petrol, and little or no food (we lived on protein bars). Some of the things we saw on that trip were completely heartbreaking. Peoples lives completely turned upside down over night. I ended up being stuck on the Island for one month as all flights off the island were completely booked up. Not being able to leave a situation like that probably made it one of the most challenging for me but I'm fully aware that I was one of the lucky ones that did eventually get to leave. I wasn't one of the ones that lost everything so I almost feel bad saying it was a challenging situation.
5. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Bringing photographs back to people, showing someone their portrait in a book or making new friends. They are the highlights now.
6. What does travelling mean to you?
Again its always about the people. Hanging out with someone for one month or ten minutes, making a connection. Trying to capture someone in the time that they've invited you into their life. It's incredible. Also realising all the things we take for granted and often moan about, travelling can be great at putting those things into perspective.
7. Where would you love to go to next?
I've recently started working with an organisation called 'women for women', they work in the post conflict area and that's exactly where I see my work going next. The impact of war, immediate and long term. I know it's not a destination exactly but it is where I see myself going next.
Visit the Exhibition 'HURUMA'
The Gallery at Artisans & Adventurers, Margate
24th August to 9th September 2018
Private View 5-8pm 24th August 2018
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