Irish Work by Tom Wood
Irish Work by Tom Wood
Irish Work by Tom Wood is a highly personal book of unseen photographs taken over a period of over nearly 50 years. The book contains over 200 previously unpublished images centring on Wood’s lifelong relationship with Ireland - a personal story and conflict, linked to the wider history of the country.
Tom Wood was born in 1951 to a Catholic mother and a Protestant father, who were later forced to emigrate to England. He would return home to Ireland annually, photographing against the backdrop of Nephin mountain. In 1978 he moved to Merseyside and spent the next 25 years there creating many of his best-known pictures, primarily street photographs. Throughout this period, he was also working on a long-term study of the west of Ireland, and the wider landscape of his birthplace and childhood. Family connections are woven throughout the book but never explained. The people and places intertwined throughout the images are dense with history, both public and personal.
Taken between 1972 and 2019, the photographs are neither chronological nor follow a defined narrative—instead they are presented as a stream of consciousness. The book shifts stylistically from portrait to panorama, video to colour and black & white, and in subject matter from landscape to interior, lone figures to social gatherings, with a gentle humour coolly observational, anecdotal, and playful.
The pictures suggest a fullness; a concurrence and layering of multiple events, and edge-to- edge richness of life. Irish Work showcases Wood’s artistic shifts of style over five decades, while preserving both his individuality and mastery of the photographic form.
The book is a collaboration with artist Padraig Timoney, who worked on the sequencing and dust jacket design. The Irish work was initially edited by Peter Finnemore, in 2013 for the exhibition ‘Tom Wood: Landscapes’ which was show in Mostyn, Wales and Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris. Wood revisited this work during the lockdowns of the 2020 pandemic and added in seven additional years of photographs from subsequent visits to Ireland. Over 400 new images were edited down to those in the book and sequenced by Timoney, a frequent visual collaborator. The achievement of orchestrating all this new material is remarkable, as Wood acknowledges, “The scale and range must have tested Padraig to the limit”.
“Wood’s photographs in Ireland are his most personal and mysterious work, and an extension of the social and human attachments he has studied all his life… We have the recurrence of journeying, of open roads running back into the picture, we see land being tilled, manure being dug, hay bales carried, interactions and encounters between people and animals. Work is not alienating but celebrated in such pictures… Human bonds, generational and family ties recur as do certain places. One gets the sense of encircling and depicting the same area, over and over.” - Mark Durden, Exhibition Introduction, Paysages Intimes’, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris
“Ansel Adams he is not. Tom Wood does not aspire to the splendors of the Grand Canyon and its million-years-old grandeur. He is located, lodged, locked into the immediate geology, the grains of sand of human strata. He records the phenomena of the human species… [In Ireland as] in Merseyside he is outsider and insider at once… Embedded in the community, a participant observer”. – Bob Quinn, Irish Arts Review
Tom Wood was born in 1951 in County Mayo in the west of Ireland. He lived and worked in Merseyside between 1978 and 2003, before moving to his current home in North Wales. Wood has published numerous books, including Looking for Love (1989), All Zones Off Peak (1998), Photie Man (2005) and Men / Women (2013). His work has been included in many group exhibitions, has been the subject of solo exhibitions at ICP, New York; Recontres d’Arles, France; Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow; MoMA, Oxford; FOAM, Amsterdam, The Photographers’ Gallery, London and the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford amongst others, and is held in the collections of major international museums.