Irish photographer Eamonn Doyle's first photobook, i, is one of my personal favorite photobooks from 2014. Composed of images of anonymous solitary people walking the streets of Dublin, this book brings you in close, looking down from slightly above, and mostly from behind. It is as if we are viewing these individual characters from the perspective of a compassionate angel, appreciative of all of the tiny details that provide vague hints about these people—figures who we pass on the street often, but with only rare acknowledgement.
The book includes no text, just 58 large, beautifully printed images, given the space to breathe and to be appreciated. But in earlier writing about his approach, Doyle wrote:
"In taking these photographs, I tried to strip away many of the elements often expected in street photography—context, obvious biographical cues and signifiers, general ‘background noise.’ I shot from above, mostly, and tried to flatten the figures into the pavements and roads, and I usually tried to avoid showing the face. Not showing faces seemed to be a way to evoke the very unknowability of these people and, perhaps, by implication, of all those with whom we have such fleeting, urban encounters.
"It could be argued that revealing so few faces results in a ‘turning away’ from the people in these photographs. My intention is quite the opposite. Portrait photography usually finds its expressiveness in faces; I want the viewer to look elsewhere, to find cues other than the obvious ones, to look harder and, if needs be, to infer the missing faces."
For me, the book feels generous, honest, real, and filled with a curiosity heightened with compassion and empathy. Studying these photos, I find myself getting lost in thought and soaking up the many details in each image—frayed edges, worn shopping bags, hunched dignity, the weathering of time and the weight of ordinary life.
About the book title, ‘i’, Doyle offers, "Lower case, it seemed to suggest anti-heroism, even stoicism. Italicized, it [may] suggest a lone figure leaning into a stiff wind on a Dublin street..."
— Jim Casper
Be sure to see more of Eamonn Doyle's photographs (and understand more of his thinking), in this earlier article in LensCulture.
by Eamonn Doyle
34 x 24.5 cm
74 pages, 58 page printed full color
Publisher: D1, 2014