They say a picture is worth a thousand words and these portraits from photographer Shay Hunston, taken in advance of his “People Of The Wild Atlantic Way” project, certainly show a unique thing of two about this Emerald Isle.
Hunston, a freelance photographer based in Dublin, specializes in portrait, fashion and street photography. His work ordinarily takes him to London, Paris, Milan and elsewhere on assignments documenting the latest trends and styles during fashion weeks. The Dubliner told IrishCentral, “I have now taken a break from this work to concentrate on my current project.”
These soft smiles and sparkling eyes of all ages are just a sample of Hunston’s project which started back in June. These particular images were all taken in West Cork as a pilot project for the main event.
Hunston told IrishCentral his plans in advance of the project. “I will follow the route from Cork to Donegal, taking portrait photographs of the people, plus their stories and experiences of living in the towns, villages and remote locations amongst the stunning beauty of this diverse and ancient landscape against the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.”
Speaking from the road Hunston said, “I started the project in June and am now following the 2,500 km route of the Wild Atlantic Way from Cork to Donegal taking portrait black and white photographs of the people in the towns, villages and remote locations along the west coast of Ireland.
“In each town and village I'm staging exhibitions of the photographs in the shop windows, turning the streets into an open gallery. People love this approach as it engages the people of the town with their own photographs.”
The “People Of The Wild Atlantic Way” project will culminate in a book of photographs, with all proceeds going to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), which operates lifeboat crews and lifeguards along Ireland’s coasts. Next year Cork Airport will stage an exhibition of the photographs taken in West Cork.
That’s not all.
“On completion of the project, I'll stage an exhibition of selected photographs at the same time in various locations along the route from Cork to Donegal, creating the world’s longest photography exhibition,” Hunston said
“I will do a similar project along the east coast of Australia, from Melbourne in the south to Cape Tribulation in the North. During my time in Australia I will stage exhibitions of the Wild Atlantic Way photographs in the major cities along the east coast – Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. This will help promote The Wild Atlantic Way in Australia.”
Hunston has been working on the project all summer and has also been working on editing photos for an exhibition in Clonakilty in County Cork.
He told IrishCentral that so far the reaction to the project has been great. “I'm overwhelmed by the positive response I've received so far, everybody loves the project.
“Ireland is indeed a stunning, beautiful country but it’s the people that are the real gems. I'm constantly receiving offers of help, encouragement and support along the way.”
It’s not only natives that Hunston has been taken with along his travels, but tourists too, and, more importantly, their stories.
“I'm continuously meeting tourists and asking them about their experiences along the way.
“The Wild Atlantic Way is more than just a destination. It’s an emotional experience, a rite of passage. It’s now on people’s bucket lists – things to do before they die. As people go further off track and discover the real Ireland and its people and get to experience such things as a real traditional music session in a rural pub.”
Hunston went on to list some experiences of the summer which had struck a chord with him: “Standing at sunset at the lighthouse on Sheep's Head Peninsula watching Humpback whales breaching the surface. The magical experience of the ferry trip in a sea mist from Baltimore to Cape Clear Island. Being invited to have a cup of tea with the people of Bere Island in their little coffee shop on a Saturday morning after they have completed their weekly 5k run. Sipping a glass of Guinness and eavesdropping on locals' conversations in MacCarthy's Bar, Castletownbere, amazed at their descriptive, expressive, poetic use of language.”
He added, “As Van Morrison would say: 'Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time.'”