NEW VENTURE?Jessica Priddy and Kerstin Hellmann, with Ruairí the dog.
Photographic focus with a dual lens
THEY may be two photographers with very different perspectives on capturing the world around them, but the owners of Westport Quay’s latest artistic outlet, The Photo Hub have a lot in common.
Both Jessica Priddy and Kerstin Hellmann are Louisburgh blow-ins smitten by the wild beauty of west Mayo. While Buckinghamshire-born Jessica is the ‘social’ snapper in the duo, Kerstin, from near Dusseldorf, Germany, is categorically the ‘anti-social’ one. When Jessica is off doing fashion shoots or encouraging brides and grooms to get into creatively compromising positions, Kerstin loves nothing more than to be sitting in a sand dune focusing on a storm brewing up at the edge of the horizon.
Speaking to The Mayo News last week, ahead of the official opening of their new shop and gallery by acclaimed Westport photographer Liam Lyons, they talked about their individual journeys to the wild west and the genesis of their recent business collaboration.
“My Mum and stepdad, Mary and Graham Temple, started coming over here in the mid 1990s and fell in love with the place. I came on regular visits and while over with friends we were in Teach na nÓl one night and we began chatting with [a local resident] Doug Priddy, from Edinburgh. He offered to be our tour guide. When my friend’s son said he really wanted to see dolphins, Doug managed to ‘pull some out of the bag’ for us at Roonagh Pier,” says Jessica, adding some humorous off-the-record asides.
“We started writing to each other – partly because Doug [a keen fishermen] kept dropping his phone into the sea. Within a year, I was living here and he had asked me to marry him,” she says.
While Jessica is a social photographer, her home near spectacular Carrownisky beach means that she also dabbles in land- and seascapes, with a particular interest in wildlife.
“I love the quiet here. You just look out of the window and it is like a painting. It is so good for the soul, and it has felt like home since the beginning,” she adds.
Another important link with west Mayo for Jessica was honed by her much-loved late Dad, Robert Glover, a successful photographer in the UK. Serendipitously, a chance meeting at the Westport St Patrick’s Day in 2007 rekindled his old friendship with Liam Lyons.
LOUISBURGH’S burgeoning artistic community meant it was inevitable that Jessica and Kerstin would cross paths. Last summer, Kerstin had a pop-up gallery at the colourful Louisburgh HQ. She had moved to Ireland in 2006 when she first worked in Dublin and then in Knock as a graphic designer.
“I always knew I wanted to live in the west of Ireland since I was ten. I immediately fell in love with it when I saw a documentary about it and told my parents I would come here to live. They had to insist that I finish my education first, and so I did a degree in Graphic Design and Photography,” says Kerstin.
The love affair was confirmed when in 2009 she and her Mum drove through the Delphi valley, with the haunting lake and famine folklore and had lunch in Louisburgh.
In her artistic statement, Kerstin explains: “I like to capture Ireland’s pristine and vibrant land and seascapes the way I see and feel them. To achieve that, I use two or three exposures, taken of the same scene and angle within a short period of time and blend them together in post-processing.”
“The most important thing for me is to get the light to be just right. It is not uncommon for me to set up the camera and wait for several hours until the position of the sun, the length of the shadows and the colours are exactly what I had envisioned. And if that doesn’t happen that day, I will come back another time,” she continues.
Meanwhile, Jessica’s experience modelling for her father’s photography master classes has informed her unique and quirky perspectives on the craft. “As a professional female photographer I feel I am naturally sympathetic to romance and beauty. My modern and imaginative style demonstrates classical posing and good composition at its core, with a sharp eye for the little details, a fleeting glance or a shared smile,” she says.
The Photo Hub
UNTIL a few months ago, Jessica’s little studio was tucked away behind her husband’s fishing tackle shop, A Shore Thing, at Westport Quay. Due to health problems, Doug closed his shop at Christmas and the obvious thing was for Jessica to expand. The studio and gallery is now open seven days a week.