What I’ve Learned: A Photographer’s Journey is a Masters of Photography series dedicated to our students, exploring the stories behind the imagery they have created. For other student interviews check out our blog posts. 

Norman McCloskey is a landscape photographer based in the south west of Ireland.  He runs his own gallery in the town of Kenmare for the last five years and prior to this worked for a large editorial photography agency for 18 years.

“Looking at these images I feel quite lyrical, these images are all about Ireland’s landscape… so it feels quite fitting!

Norman’s work has the beautiful ability to capture the textual atmosphere in a landscape. This is not easy, super dramatic landscapes are pretty easy, sunsets are easy and often just… pretty.

However here in Norman’s images I aren’t distracted by over constructed drama and I’m given time to feel a gentle wind and a soft light. There’s enough time to feel the rough or the slippery textures in his seascapes and his rock images. I can smell the grasses in the landscapes. Perhaps it’s my own Irish roots calling, ha ha! Maybe but… in these images, it’s Norman’s eye that re-triggers these Celtic senses in me.

He does not over state the light or compositions, he lets the image quietly offer us his personal view of Ireland. His solitary cottages sit in a sea of dark brown, dank grasses and earth (huummm I smell the earth!). The walls and roof are becoming coloured and textured by the elements. So here he explores the deterioration of man made textures and and the surrounding natural environment.

 

Importantly, his framing also reveals the solitude and peace of these little dwellings too perhaps. He’s got it. In these images I can sense Norman walking with his camera and welly boots… making his work. I can see the eye and mind of the artist in them. Congratulations… these are well seen and captured Norman. Thank you for being part of Masters of Photography and sharing your work with us.” – Chris Ryan, Masters of Photography CEO

 

NORMAN MCCLOSKEY CLIFF

How long have you been into photography?

My photographic journey began in 1992 and I’ve been photographing continuously since then.

 

What made you want to start taking photographs?

I had moved from the city to live in a small country town at the tender age of 20! It had a profound effect on me and I felt an instant connection with the landscape.  As soon as I picked up my first camera I headed out into the landscape and began photographing it. Doing so gave me a bona fide reason to be out in the landscape and begin to understand my passion for it and how it affected me so much.

 

NORMAN MCCLOSKEY DARK CLOUD

What do you enjoy in photography?

Most of all I love the peace and solitude of beautiful moments out in nature.  I love being creative and the energy I get from that and I really enjoy others getting joy from my work.

 

What is your favourite piece of kit?

I think it would have to be my 24mm tilt & shift lens which has been almost a permanent fixture on my camera bodies since 2008.  It’s a wonderfully versatile lens and the perfect focal length for my style of photography.

 

 

What was the most influential moment in inspiring your photography?

A great question!  My photographic journey has been blessed with a number of great moments all of which inspire me to keep going.  But if were to pick one out as pivotal, it would be the moment the idea for my first book came to me and I realised instantly that it was a great idea.  Publishing that book led on to many great things for me including exhibitions, commissions, commercial shows and eventually opening my own gallery.

 

NORMAN MCCLOSKEY mountain

What does your photography say about you as a person?

This is something I am aiming for more and more now, for my images to say something about me as an artist.  I think my love of nature, in particular quiet contemplative moments comes through. I work very hard to try and create original work in a crowded landscape and when I succeed that’s a wonderful thing.

Which photographer or book has had the biggest impact on you? Why?

Initially as I stared out as a black and white photographer it was of course any book by Ansel Adams.  But nothing has had a more profound affect on me than Joel Meyerowitz’s ‘ Cape Light’. Having left my wonderful life in the Kerry countryside to study photography in Dublin,  the move felt like a huge mistake for a while. I was on the verge of giving up the course until I picked up a copy in the library and couldn’t put it down. It was hugely inspiring and a great mix of beautiful landscape images and striking portraits,  but most of all it was about light and I knew that’s all I needed !

 

NORMAN MCCLOSKEY SEA ISLAND

Are you working on a photography project? OR do you have one in mind or one that you’d like to start?

I am currently at the early stages of my fourth book KINGDOM,  paying homage to the landscape of my adopted county of Kerry. I have just recently published my second book BEARA and my third which is a private commission will be printed shortly.  I am also working a series of landscape images based around my hometown and Ireland’s offshore islands.

 

What are your favourite photographs that you have taken?

Always a difficult question to answer and one that I get asked a lot in the gallery.  I have one image ‘Skellig Moon’ which has been incredibly successful, it would be unfair not to mention it as it’s still unique and has been been very good to me !  Overall though my favourite image is one I made in college over 25 years of a little bridge at Dromquinna, shot on a Hasselblad , the square format of it has influenced my work since.

 

NORM MCCLOSKEY BRIDGE

This image made in 1995 is probably my favourite of all time. Shot on film and printed many times by hand in the darkroom, it’s tones and textures and line make for a captivating print. Sadly the bridge is no longer there but this image always brings back great memories of the beginning of my photographic journey and always suggested a path ahead !

 

 

NORMAN MCCLOSKEY HOUSE

When I’m not in Kerry or West Cork.. Connermara is the next place that feels very special and one which I have a real connection to now. On previous visits I noticed these small little structures dotted around the landscape which intrigued me. Too small to be houses, or boat sheds I finally discovered the locals call them ‘ Bothainín ‘. Bothain is Irish for a hut, and adding -ín on to the word usually denotes it as being , little, small or in a name, junior. It turns out they were little huts that bailiffs from the large estates would sit in and guard the running salmon on the rivers from local poachers. I spent a few days photographing them until finally found this one on the perfect morning with a brooding sky offset by the lovely warm colours of Autumn.

What is your favourite photograph from another photographer?

Any image from Murray Fredericks SALT series..  they are simply stunning and the type of images that I would love have the space and time to make !

 

How did the course benefit you?

I’ve found everything that Joel has written or has been filmed discussing incredibly inspirational and informative.  I love his infectious passion for his craft and it is incredibly important to keep topping up with this type of creative fuel.

 

 

What is the best piece of photographic advice you have come across?

I’ve had lots of great advice of the years, but I guess the recommendation to only ever show your best work and work that speaks for you would be up there with the best.

 

A Photographer’s Journey credits.

Check out the Norman McCloskey official site where you can purchase his books here Instagram page here. Check out Joel Meyerowitz’s masterclass here.

Photo 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 by Norman McCloskey

Photo 8 by Murray Fredricks