'Children of the Free State' exhibition for Heritage Week in Laois

Express Reporter


Express Reporter



'Children of the Free State' exhibition for Heritage Week in Laois

John Sheeran, Attanagh

A new photography exhibition of portraits by Laois artist, Annie Holland will be available online for Heritage Week.

The photography exhibition will be on display in the Dunamaise Arts Centre when local public health guidelines allow, hopefully from 24th August. The work is available to view online now at https://www.heritageweek.ie/projects/children-of-the-free-state-by-annie-holland-1

Also readers can go to  https://vimeo.com/user57741361 to find out more about Annie's work and the 'Children of the Free State' project. 

Over the past two years, Annie has begun conversations with older people from rural Laois born before or just after 1922, taking portraits of them and having conversations about the past and the present.

Using photography and video, Annie focuses on how the process of documentation and storytelling can itself create space, physically and emotionally, for real dialogue and the narration of personal stories - past and present.

In creating this body of work she visited the homes of thirteen elderly participants, taking portraits of them and having conversations about their past and present life.

She incorporates old family photos, dating back generations into the exhibition, as a tangible bridge that connects the past with the present, and her exhibition of portraits will connect current and future generations.

Above, Nancy Phelan, Cullohill 

Annie believes that the past of any human being is never permanent, but constantly being reconstructed in the present.

Speaking her conversations with older people in the county, Annie said,

“I am very well placed to gain a valuable insight into the changes that have taken place in rural life over the generations as I am not an outsider and hopefully have gained the trust of my participants where they can speak openly and intimately with me.”

Annie has listened to first-hand accounts of how it was for the participants to live through the peaks of emigration recorded during the 1930’s, 1950’s and 1980’s and the decline of the Irish economy.

Their impressions of and feelings during the extremes of the Celtic Tiger and subsequent recession.

She asked questions about what it was like to go from horse and cart to motorisation, and what’s it now like having to make the huge leap into the digital age.

The exhibition in a series of photographic portraits and video recordings is not just a nostalgic revisiting or a documentation of a passing way of life but attempts to explore the role of these older people and their continued relevance in rural Ireland today.

Above, Betty O'Brien, Donaghmore

The overall project encompasses and articulates the socio-cultural heritage of Laois from 1922 and the photography and video materials are being donated in perpetuity to Laois County Library Digital Archive.

It also contributes to the enquiry and perspective of ‘A Sense of Place’, the overarching theme of the Laois Culture and Creativity Strategy 2018 – 2022 and is supported by Creative Ireland Laois, as part of the Creative Ireland Programme 2018-2022 in partnership with Laois County Council.

Annie Holland (pictured above) is a photographic artist from Durrow.

After graduating with a Masters in Design from University of Wales in 1994, she set off on an unplanned trip around the world which saw her return to Ireland five years later.

During this time she trained as a photographer whilst living in Japan and has since made this her passion and career.

She currently works as a commercial photographer and part-time art teacher. Annie regularly exhibits her work both in Ireland and also internationally.