Art Perry’s Irish portraits are not touristy reaffirmations of the quaintness and picturesque verdure of Ireland. Much of our perception of Ireland has become a visual cliché: the green hills, the stone cottages, rock fences winding around trails of gray smoke across shamrock fields, wind-battered coastline, and the ever-present pub with Guinness and jigs always on tap. All of which is wonderfully part of Ireland, yes, but what Art’s black-and- white portraits do is to take the viewer inside that stone cottage or into that pub where they can see and experience the Irish people firsthand. These images carry an unshakeable truth. Neither a postcard nor a postscript, these photographs speak of the real Irish. Authenticity is the key.
These photographs have a natural and spontaneous sense of time, a captured real life moment: moments we all experience but often pass by. As a photographer and cultural historian, Art feels these images deserve to have their “voice” heard. They celebrate and share the uniqueness of everyday moments in Irish life.
The people in Art’s photos, the Irish, come from a cross-section of Travellers, clergy, farmers who have lived on their land for five generations, artists, writers, long-rooted manor owners, kids playing, seventy-year-old cabinetmakers, and small-town dancers.
These are distinctive people, often with a strong sense of character, will, and tradition. Art realized as a writer and photographer he needed to share these people’s stories and faces. They had to be witnessed before Ireland changed so much they might be forgotten. Many of the Irish Art encountered still mentioned the Great Famine. Others had utterly mythic accounts of their own family’s survival within the last few decades. These stories are carried in their expressions, on their worn hands, and in the landscapes and homes that form their backdrops. The Irish tradition of storytelling runs like river water through these portraits.