Thinking about Bill Doyle (RIP Bill)

Aug 6th 2011 | 0 COMMENTS
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I have been thinking about the photographer Bill Doyle a lot. Sadly he passed away last year but I didn’t discover this until recently when I stumbled accross a substantial part of his personal photography book collection in a shop in Ireland. Check out some of the books I have photographed here, its a who’s who of the greats.

When I left Ireland to work as a photographer in the UK in 1995 I had a poor knowledge of the history of photography. My college, IADT had taught us very little about the history of photography. Our Art History teacher was ignorant of photography and our course in its infancy when I attended. Most of what I know now has been from scouring book shops for anything photography related for 20 years. My wife runs a vintage magazine archive Elegantly Papered and we often look through collections in second hand book shops all over the world. It was during one of our routine inspections in the back room of a dusty old shop in Connemara in Ireland last month that we both noticed an unusually high standard of photography books in amongst the usual fodder. We also started to notice inscriptions to ‘Bill’.

We bought quite a few and had them shipped back to London. (Photography books are HEAVY!) and they arrived this week. Ever since we bought them I havn’t been able to get over how cheaply they were discarded. When we asked in the shop about ‘Bill’ the owner said they were from Bill Doyles collection who died last year. I recognised his name as I already had one of Bills books, the superb ‘Island Funeral’. I wonder if his family had recognised what they were letting go? Each book was by a major figure in photography. Many were by noted documentary photographers. Bill had a reputation as one of Irelands great photographers. In fact the Irish Museum Of Modern Art is featuring his work as I write this. I have another book of his work, ‘Bill Doyles Ireland’, that is published by the Irish Gallery of Photography from an retrospective that they granted him in 2007. A major figure in Irish photography indeed.

I feel privileged to be able to look through his collection. With some more experience under my belt since leaving college in 1991 and working as a photographer I feel I can understand some of his photographic philosophy just from seeing who he cherished. I have enjoyed looking back at his beautiful photographs in the past few weeks and I can feel the passion that he put into the photographs. With his collection beside me it’s easy to recognise his influences and to see the very high standards he reached with his work, admiring the greats and hopefully having a pint with some of them now at the great departure lounge in the sky! RIP Bill

More about Bill -

I have copied this from the Bill Doyle Facebook page/group “Bill Doyle Photographer Fan Club”:

“Bill Doyle is one of Ireland’s best-loved photographers. Born in Dublin in 1926, Bill has been taking photos all his adult life. Indeed, a lot of his childhood was spent with camera in-hand, snapping anything in the world around him that held his attention long enough to amuse him! However, it wasn’t until he won the Daily Telegraph Magazine Photographer of the Year Award in 1967 (for a collection of photos of the Aran Islands), that he decided to pursue his favourite hobby as a full-time career. Since then, the trademark lightness of touch, warmth and humour of his wpork has won him a legion of fans worldwide, as well as the title “Ireland’s Cartier-Bresson”. He’s won numerous awards and has exhibited his work in Japan, Germany, England and the USA.”

From the Irish Photographers Website Bill Doyle RIP

‘An Irish Elagy’

(Some of) The photographers who have clearly influenced him (see the gallery photographs for the books):

Robert Doisneau, August Sander, Walker Evans, Andre Kertez, Paul Strand, Julia Margaret Cameron, W Eugene Smith, Bill Brandt & Edward Steichen. Its clear that his approach was that of a classical and traditional photographer and his work was deeply romantic. In this post modern image sodden world you could almost call some of the images cliches. Some of the Art Establishment have but I believe class shines through and his work was very classy indeed. Its not always about being innovative. The mans heart was clearly open to the people he met and the stories he had to tell. I never met Bill but right now I’m getting to know him.


About Conor

Conor is a photographer and film maker based in London. His images can be viewed on his website on the PHOTOGRAPHY and FILM links above. This blog is a good place to see all sorts of personal work and general projects in progress.

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