DIVERSIFYING Ryan Gallagher has become more aware of the beauty of his locality during lockdown.
It’s Friday morning on the edge of Europe and the dent on the horizon could well be a skyscraper in down-town Boston. There isn’t a single cloud in the sky, and Ryan Gallagher has a broad smile stretched across his face. The acclaimed photographer loves Belmullet, loves Erris and when the sun beams from the heavens, he maintains there’s no better place on the planet.
The 26-year-old camera man could be less than positive. His business has changed dramatically since Covid restrictions came calling in the first quarter of 2020, but where others might see negatives, he envisages possibility and opportunity.
“Things have changed so much for everyone, but there’s no point complaining about it. Business has been battered, but we have to change and work with what we have. I work with people; that’s my passion and I had to find a way of continuing that,” he tells The Mayo News.
Before Covid-19 became part of our lives, the pages of Gallagher’s diary were packed with wedding bookings all across Mayo and even a few in Leinster, but that counted for very little when restrictions, lockdowns, masks and hand sanitiser became central to our existence.
“I was building up the business year on year and had come to the point where 30 weddings were lined up for 2020. Then, disaster hit and everything changed. I ended up working at one wedding for the entire year.
“Everyone else postponed and pushed back a few months, but some of them have had to move the dates three or four times already and are still waiting. That has created a kind of a log-jam because the postponed dates and the people looking to book for the first time are beginning to overlap, so I don’t know what will happen when restrictions lift.”
In the meantime, Gallagher has diversified. He looked for opportunities and found them all around him. His artistic mind began to embrace things he had always seen but never noticed – and his work developed in other fields.
“To be honest, in the past year I have become much more aware of the amazing place I live and have invested in the streaming and video side of things. I’ve worked with various schools and businesses in the area and a few nationally too, while also taking family photographs outside in the stunning scenery around our homes.
“Streaming will become more and more important, even when restrictions are lifted. I cannot see the 400-guest weddings ever becoming popular again and I’m not sure people will travel from across the world to weddings the way they once did, so streaming will help link families and friends with the celebrations.
“I hope to get into the sports side of it too and we’re all really looking forward to the resumption of games and the craic they bring with them,” Ryan added.
The love of photography was always part of his life, but really began to flourish during Transition Year in St Brendan’s College when he was given the task of producing pictures from the school’s football matches.
“My teacher Michael Gallagher, who plays with Crossmolina, was setting up a Media Centre in the school and like myself he loved football, so he helped me greatly. Then I started taking pictures for Kilmore Ladies FC where my sister played and it just developed from there.
“I spent two years learning the trade with the talented Eamonn O’Boyle before studying photography in Edinburgh for three years. Then, I came home and set up the business. Starting off is never easy and I imagined many difficulties but I never thought of anything like a global pandemic arriving.”
However, that’s where the talented young man now finds himself and he’s determined to make the best of the situation.
“I’m passionate about working with people, and I’m looking forward to doing that in the best way possible. I want to concentrate on using our scenery, our beaches and great outdoors for family photographs over the next few months. This is already proving to be a success because the pandemic has changed the way many of us think, and we realise that family and simple things matter more than ever before.”