ABOVE: Dearbhail as a child with her granny Agnes Hogan.

“This is somebody’s life – this is the story of it”

EXHIBITION SWC students host end of year show online

Sifting through countless photos and old home movies gave Dearbhail Hogan a greater depth of understanding and appreciation of her late grandmother. In ‘Talking Photographs’ the Newtownbutler art student shares these fragments in the life of the late Agnes Hogan as her contribution to the end of year show at South West College (SWC).

Agnes was in a nursing home when she passed away of old age last October. Pandemic restrictions prevented her family from being with her for much of this difficult time.

“It was hard because the last time I saw her was January of last year. Luckily my Dad was able to get down and visit,” she recalls. “It helped him”.

Dearbhail penned and read a poem at Agnes’ funeral, which she later decided to develop and used as the basis for a visual poetry project for her BA Hons in Visual Media Art course. Dearbhail explains she was introduced to visual poetry through one of her lecturers at SWC, Cavan artist Dr Laura O’Connor and recalls thinking: “That’s my avenue – that’s what I want to do. It was what I fell in love with, I could create emotion through words and video – even if it was just sky or birds - being able to tie those two things together.”

For many of Agnes’s generation the camera would only have been taken out for notable family occasions – weddings, christenings, landmark birthdays. However many of Agnes’s 16 children have long shared a fondness for snapshots and footage, more akin to contemporary life. It meant that Dearbhail had a wealth of old films to mine.

“We’re very much a family who video everything, so I have a lot of old footage.”

In turning the camera’s lens to the ordinary happenings in Agnes’s life, it offers an authenticity to the portrait Dearbhail has assembled.

“I look at the footage my dad’s family have captured of all of their lives – photographs, videos – and it’s all every day things: like my granny digging spuds in her garden, a random day.

“I find myself in my daily life, videoing us just eating dinner, or video us going for a walk. Just to have a collection of memories that, in the far far future, when I’m gone that there will be a collection of memories of my life and my family,” says the 24 year old.

Dearbhail Hogan’s ‘Talking Pictures’ will form part of the SWC end of year show which everyone is welcome to view online this Thursday evening.

Dearbhail believes the project has given her a new perspective from which to appreciate her grandmother. The inevitable numbness experienced from watching videos “seventeen hundred times” in the process of compiling and editing the work evaporated when she watched the completed film.

“Seeing the story of my grandmother from when my grandfather was alive, seeing footage of them together, footage of her with her children, and footage of her with her grandchildren – it felt like a collected story that I had never really stepped back to look at.

“This is somebody’s life – this is the story of it. For me it made my granny more real, I think it really brought her to life.”

The late Agnes Hogan.

While Dearbhail’s artwork has a very personal dimension, it broaches universal themes.

“I hope when people view my work, especially my final major project, they find a sense of familiarity, a sense of comfort that they’re not alone in how they feel. I hope my work can maybe bring a sort of peace to those who are struggling.”

Dearbhail’s experience of college since the pandemic was restricted to online tutoring. When her classmates were finally able to return to campus, Dearbhail continued to work remotely as she has muscular dystrophy and would be more at risk.

Her disability doesn’t overtly inform this work, so Dearbhail was conflicted on whether to make mention of it in her exhibition bio.

“Do I mention I’m disabled? I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. But also, I know that my disability sets me apart from other people, not in a bad way, but in a unique way. And I know if I saw somebody who was deaf or visually impaired, I feel like, I would be so fascinated in the work they produce because I know being disabled how challenging it is, so I knew I needed to include it in my bio, I knew how important it is, because it is a part of me.”

Dearbhail is one of 13 students exhibiting work in the SWC group event titled ‘The Butterfly Effect’ and hosted online this week.

“The main purpose of the exhibition is to get professionals in the industry, to see our work, make contacts, put ourselves out there,” she says.