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Portraits of Westport’s people on show

Going Out

OPENING LINES Pictured at the opening of ‘Meet the People’ last Thursday evening were Rev Val Rodgers, Maria Ruddy, Conor McKeown, Dermot Langan and Tereasa McGuire. The exhibition is part of the Rolling Sun Book Festival and runs until November 28.

Ciara Moynihan

A new photographic exhibition entitled ‘Meet the People’ opened in the Custom House Studios and Gallery at The Quay, Westport, opened last Thursday, November 16.
The photos form part of an ongoing collection of portraits by well-known Westport photographer Conor McKeown, who aims to record the people of his town during the year 2017, its 250th anniversary.
“The finished article will be a book that will hopefully contain over 100 portraits, containing also people’s reactions to the photos,” McKeown tells The Mayo News.
As Conor bumps into various people as he perambulates along the streets of Westport, his aim is to capture more than the oft-quoted ‘Covey or blow-in’ dichotomy. He’s not hemmed in by the idea of ‘natives’ – choosing instead to show the diversity of the town’s citizenry, regardless of their origins.
Couples, siblings, individuals, friends – his lens is trained on all, so long as they live or work in the town. His subjects are mainly captured in the style of street portraiture, lending the collection both an immediacy and an intimacy.
“It’s a personal project,” McKeown explains. “The people aren’t personal to me, but it’s an archive of personalities.”
Why choose to focus on people rather the iconic landmarks of the town, such as its buildings, its bridges or its public art? “The town stays the same, the buildings stay the same, but the inhabitants come and go, so my photos refect a timeline of personalities specific to a moment. In five years’ time, everyone will have changed or moved on – the kids will be teenagers, people age, people move – it’s a snapshot of the town’s people that can never be repeated,” the photographer explains.
The photos in ‘Meet the People’ show the characters that McKeown meets as they go about their day, catching them as they carry out their everyday tasks, in the knowledge that it is this to and fro, this daily back and forth, that weaves the vital fabric of Westport. In so doing, he captures the magic in the mundane, and serves up a lovely photographic chronicle of a town and its lifeblood.

‘Meet the People’, an exhibition of photographs by Conor McKeown,  is part of the Rolling Sun Book Festival, which took place last weekend. It will run at the Custom House Studios and Gallery until November 28.

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