Galway Photographer Describes the Connection Created Through the Lens
The Power of Photography:
For one Galway photographer, travelling abroad taught her the true power of photos to bring people together. Michelle from Wonky Eye Photography in Barna, Co Galway, discovered the ability to connect through the lens in Africa and it inspired a new career for the talented creative.
A keen traveller, Michelle and her husband Andy found themselves stuck in a dried-out riverbank in Africa, as the wheels of their vehicle spun in near quicksand. Thankfully, locals from the remote village nearby spotted their predicament and were quick to help. However, the villagers spoke a high-pitched language using clicks. Despite this language barrier, they came together to push the car out of danger. While they couldn’t communicate through words, an immediate connection was made when Michelle took out her camera.
“We were like two big eegits stuck in the desert,” she jokes. “We needed help and we didn’t have the language. But we could connect though photography.”
“It was so surreal,” she says, “we managed to have a conversation and connect with each other when I took their photo. If they hadn’t come along, I don’t know where we would be.
“We couldn’t understand their conversation – every different noise meant something – but we could use gestures and smiles. When I took their picture, I realised how everyone can connect through photography, no matter what.”
It was through her love of taking photos while travelling that Wonky Eye Photography was born. The name captures Michelle’s ability to find a different perspective and to see the world with a fresh light. Not only that, but her thirst for adventure and spontaneity brought her to Barna on the outskirts of Galway city.
Wanderlust and a Home by the Sea:
Originally from Roscommon, Michelle lived in London for many years before deciding to up sticks and find a home by the sea. On her way to a wedding reception, she spotted a house for sale near the Twelve hotel, and promptly bought it by auction over the phone. Essentially, this was the start of the next chapter for the couple, who now have three children, Eli, Jake and Isaac.
The changing landscape of the west is a source of constant inspiration for this Galway photographer. One of the challenges in establishing her business was to find locations that work best for family portraits. Through trial and error, she has identified two key places in the county and is happy to share these with Scene in Galway readers.
The First is Barna Woods:
“Barna woods works so well and is a stunning backdrop to a family portrait. As a mum myself, I know how different each child can be. As a result, Barna woods is perfect for children who enjoy studying and exploring small things.”
The Second is Trá Sailin in Spiddal:
“Trá Sailin in Spiddal is perfect for children who love to run around. It is so safe and, depending on the day, it looks as though you could be on the most stunning beaches in South Africa or Australia. That’s the beauty of County Galway and the west of Ireland.”
100 Strangers to Faces of Galway:
Through her travel and adventures, Michelle is used to stepping out of her comfort zone. And yet, she admits that taking part in a project to approach and photograph 100 strangers made her nervous. While the challenge was to photograph 100 strangers and to share the experience with others taking part on social media, Michelle took it one step further.
She began to put words to the images and developed her own Faces of Galway project. The connections made during this time were instrumental in her turning a hobby into her professional career as a Galway photographer.
The First Face:
She recalls the very first person she approached. Here, a stranger having a cigarette outside Javas coffee shop on Abbeygate Street in Galway city caught her eye.
“I was definitely nervous,” she says. “She looked so cool, just standing there. But I knew if I didn’t just try and go for it and ask her for her photo, it would become another item on the ‘to do’ list. At the time, I didn’t know what to ask her. Consequently, her story is very short. However, I became more confident. I was drawn to people who wore a cool hat or had a moustache. It was a great ice-breaker; a way to introduce myself and approach them for a photo. As the project went on, I was able to approach someone just by making eye-contact.“
A Story to Tell:
The unique connection made with strangers through a camera lens continued for Michelle during her Faces of Galway project.
“It made me realise that everyone has a story to tell. People would open up to me. In that short 15 minute window, I listened as they told me a snippet of their life story. They were so happy that someone was genuinely interested and I believe the camera opened up a different kind of bond. The experience drove me to become a professional Galway photographer.”
Michelle has found her niche and is passionate about family portraiture in a fun and relaxed environment. For more see www.wonkyeye.ie.