Sinéad Murphy is a successful photographer and Griffith’s resident Programme Director (PD) for BA in Photographic Media and Certificate in Photography. She has shot for publications like the Independent on Sunday (UK), the Irish Independent and the British Journal of Photography and was the picture editor for Today FM's US 2 book and The Gathering, Reflections on Ireland. She has been a PD with Griffith since 2007. Here, she tells us a little more about her world…
Tell us a little bit about how your photography career began?
In transition year in school, I completed work experience in a commercial studio and printers. It was my first introduction to studio lighting and understanding and appreciating all that goes into product photography and advertising. It was a real eye-opener seeing behind the scenes of a shoot. I shot my first roll of film on manual mode - I hadn’t got the first clue what I was doing, but I loved it and was hooked.
Did you always want to work in photography?
My Grandad was a forensic photographer in An Garda Síochána. I looked up to him so much (metaphorically and physically given he was over 6 feet tall) and became accustomed to him always carrying his camera with him when we were out on a day trip. He used to show me slide shows and trick photography and my eight-year-old self really believed photography was magical; I still do. There are photographs of me as a young girl carrying a camera everywhere.
Tell us about one of your most interesting projects?
The project I’m most proud of was called A Little Bit of Heaven, the title of which came from a conversation with one of the subjects. I spent a number of months chatting with and making black and white portraits on a medium format camera of the daycare patients in St. Francis Hospice, Raheny. Each portrait was accompanied by a quote from our conversations, which I hand printed and bound into a book. The people I met taught me to listen, to not automatically reach for the camera and to be respectful of someone’s time.
What would you say to someone considering a career in photography?
I’m always very honest with people when it comes to this question: For a career in media or the arts, you need to be passionate and hardworking. I often compare photography to a relationship. You will fall in love it, have off days, need a break and ultimately fall in love again. So, as with any relationship worth its salt, you get out of it what you put into it. We are surrounded by images every day: online, on buses, billboards and in print. Photography and the moving image (our students can opt to do a video elective in stage 3) are everywhere in many guises on many platforms. Our graduates have put their degrees to many uses, it is not as traditional a profession as perhaps once viewed.
What’s your favourite style of photography and why?
There are so many genres of photography and in recent years the lines between them are less defined. Fine art influences fashion and advertising; documentary influences social photography and so on. For me though, the images which stand out most and strike a chord in my image bank are usually people orientated. I love any images with people which has a narrative. I love photographs that stop you in your tracks, engage you, provoke an emotional reaction. Photography has the power to do all of that. My head is a library of images - I remember photographs, not always names. Sometimes when I see the students, I see their images and associate their photographs and projects with them.
Do you have any interests or hobbies outside photography?
I love anything that involves nature and being outdoors, particularly the sea. The sea is my solace. I love to swim on the long summer evenings after work. I love scuba diving and in the last couple of years, I’m partial to the odd stand-up paddle. I also love my walks and adventures with my dog Murphy, who is the Photography department’s mascot and unofficial pet therapy dog. She brings an air of calm and (for some reason) the students are always more excited to see her than their amazing team of lecturers (!!)
What do you think makes photography at Griffith College different?
The programme is practical and very hands on. There is theory naturally, however, it is delivered hand in hand with the practical components. I believe that is really important to understand the why and then be able to put that into practice. I always say that I want our photographers to leave Griffith with more than marks and a degree. Beyond the degree, students gain confidence, find their creative voice, make award-winning work and leave with real-world, tangible assets such as self-published books, branding, business cards, a website and a real business plan. Our graduates leave with all of the above and have ideas and a plan and many will have already undertaken paid work during the course of their studies.
What is your advice to prospective students?
If you are passionate and excited about something, the chances are you are good at it. All you need is passion and drive and we will show you how to make those ideas come to life. We will be there to guide you on your creative adventure, as will your peers. You will make friends for life and we will open a door in your visual brain which you can never close. You will never look at the world in the same way again. You don’t get the same opportunities outside of a formal programme of study and the support it offers, so be curious and don’t be afraid to play and experiment. To bring things back to my beloved sea, jump in and as Dory in Finding Nemo says, “just keep swimming”….or, in this case, “shooting”.