Took Strength To Tackle Those Hills, 2010-2012, is a photographic portrait of a community and a landscape experiencing particular economic and social transition.
Located in Southwest Ireland, Cork Harbour has an important cultural maritime legacy and history of emigration. Between 1845 - 1950, an estimated 2.5 million left this shore for fresh beginnings in the New World, and Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic as she set sail on her final leg.
Its dramatic topography of steep Victorian hinterland, lush greenbelt woods and forests sits side by side with the generating stations, oil refinery and the grey geometries of multinational corporations hidden behind gently undulating hills and the waning of its curved harbour. The relics of heavy industry past lie abandoned on its shores, the landscape irrevocably transformed, leaving behind the imprint of economic and political endeavours. This suggests an uneasy and complex alliance between politics, economy and nature.
The photographs aims to look at how and why particular choices take prevalence and can be made to the detriment of its natural surroundings and human well-being. Focusing on two towns - Cobh, and the nearby Ringaskiddy, transformed from quiet fishing village and fertile farmland into one of Ireland’s major industrial hubs, the photographs present portraits of its people as well as explorations of the landscape that offer a glimpse into the idea of community within the larger context of contemporary Ireland. The work centres on the convergence between nature and man-made – the encroaching industry on the landscape.
Today, with local cancer rates 44% above national average, high unemployment leading to another wave of emigration, the slow demise of its domestic fishing business and many of its traditional heavy industries gone due to overseas competition, this work scrutinizes the paradoxes arising from a myriad of personal histories, and the realities facing many Cobh residents as they strive to move forward in uncertain times.