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Matinee: Pete Smyth Interview With Trish Lambe Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

12 August 2023

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 513th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Pete Smyth Interview With Trish Lambe.

This 6:16 video explores Local, the thirty-plus year project of Irish photographer Pete Smyth documenting his friends and neighbors in Tallaght, an inner city of Dublin.

It begins innocently enough with Smyth introducing himself and, shortly after, Trish Lambe, curator at the Gallery of Photography in Dublin, introducing herself. She briefly says what he cannot, how he fits into the pantheon of Irish photographers.

It's a modest start. But hang in there. The work is moving.

What makes it moving is that Smyth is shooting his own. These are all portraits of the people he has rubbed elbows with every day of his life for decades. Black and white. Square format.

It includes his portraits of Traveler women, commonly referred to as the Gypsies of Ireland. "Smyth's achievement here is to present us with individuals, not types, not in any sense other, in a way that recalls Renaissance portraiture," wrote Aidan Dunne in reviewing the collection.

Portraiture isn't all he's done, though. There's a good bit of what he calls social documentary photography. "Left wing," he puts it. He shoots the poverty but he focuses on the resilience.

And yet, he says, the problems he first encountered in the 1980s "are pretty much still there."

Lambe fills in the blanks and puts his work in context. Which, she says, is "a very important body of work."

Indeed. Smyth's empathy for his neighbors advocates for them in a world that would otherwise never look them in the eye.

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