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Picture perfect

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Image of the opening of Abaca photography

Picture perfect

Making the most of now
Anna Marie Flynn

“I suppose it was just Daft really,” Ciarán Duignan muses casually about what is surely up there with the biggest risks he has ever taken. Ironically, the professional photographer is referring to Daft.ie, the well-known property website, and not any sort of unpredictable mood swing, that prefixed his decision to move from Meath to Mayo two years ago.
Originally from Navan, the photographer now based in Crossmolina, made the brave decision to up sticks and move from his native place to carve out a professional career from what was a hobby-come-part-time job.  And while it wasn’t quite a case of throwing darts at a map; it certainly wasn’t a meticulously planned move that resulted in Ciarán Duignan and his business, Abaca Photography, taking root in Crossmolina.
“I suppose we didn’t mind where we went; we could have easily ended up in Kerry or Cork but we decided on Mayo from looking through the property website and seeing what was on offer. We didn’t know anyone here but that soon changed!,” he said.
The ‘we’ he refers to is his partner and child; the compact family who settled in the Crossmolina area, in a move that saw Ciarán open up his own studio on Ballina Street in the town just two months ago.
With a recession in full-swing, the Meath man admits there was more than a few quizzical looks about his choice of location amidst what was rocky timing.
“People often wonder why I would set up here in Crossmolina, and not a bigger town like Castlebar or Ballina, particularly at the moment, but for me there are huge advantages with Crossmolina. On a business level there’s plenty of scope for family portrait work locally where I can travel to people’s homes or do studio jobs, but also there’s a real community spirit. When I opened, lots of local business people sent me cards and well wishes. It’s a lovely place to live and work.”
Community spirit aside, the biggest advantage is surely the cost of doing business. With sharp honesty, he says: “What I am paying in rent here per month would be the same figure per week if I was in Dublin or some other city. The fact that my costs and overheads are lower means I can afford to offer a professional service at a price that is affordable and that’s what makes it work.”
Speaking in his fresh, open-spaced studio, he admits it would be possible to work without such a space but recognises the advantage of it commercially.  “The studio gives me a base and a place of work, and even though a lot of my work would take place outside these four walls, it’s still nice to have a space dedicated to it. It’s a place where people can drop in or see my work on the window and that is important.”
But then Ciarán Duignan knows the business inside-out. A wide and diverse career has taken him through a string of interesting jobs, reflecting the variety he cherishes in his own work as a professional image capturer. Now, by his own admission, he is his ‘own boss’ and enjoys the flexibility of a career ‘where every day is different.’ Tellingly, his recession risk has also given him a unique sense of security. “I know what is coming; it’s not like someone can turn around tomorrow and tell me I am losing my job. That’s the advantage of owning your own businesses and knowing what is around the corner.”
It is a confidence that comes from having experienced the unpredictability of sectors he has previously worked in, having spent time in a radio station, where he established himself as a music photographer and in print media as a photo journalist. 
And his advice for other business people embarking on something new is simple: “The recession means looking at your business a new way and being aware that people have less to spend than they had before.  I think the real essence of good business is offering something that little bit different; finding the niche in the market, and I think my style as a photographer offers that to people who like it and who want something that’s individual and original.”

Ciarán Duignan is based at Abaca Photography, Ballina Street, Crossmolina. For more, see www.abacaphotography.com , email info@abacaphotography.com or telephone 086 7253333.