Splitting his time between New York and Ireland, Rich Gilligan is a man in demand. The Dublin-born photographer honed his eye for imagery in the skateparks of his hometown and expanded it to become one of the most distinctive and versatile photographers out there.
Balancing editorial and fashion work (his photos have been published in Vogue, the New York Times and i-D) and stunning portraiture, Gilligan's portfolio has grown to include images of some of the biggest names in Irish culture; including Cillian Murphy, Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Barry Keoghan and so many more.
The coupling of Gilligan with one of Ireland's most beloved and interesting arts projects, Other Voices, is a match made in heaven. Gilligan is Other Voices' head photographer, tasked with capturing the musicians as they work, muse and chat about their art — giving the audience a taste of what's to come in their live performances.
IMAGE sat down with Rich to chat about his journey as a photographer across the Atlantic, his process in capturing the perfect shot, and the voices he's most excited to hear coming out of Ireland in 2019.
Your work has seen you travel around the world and capture people and imagery from a huge variety of backgrounds — what inspired you to settle on a routine that's mostly between Dublin and New York?
I have been based in New York full-time for the past four years which, for me, is the perfect location — I can travel around different parts of the US for work, but still bounce back and forth easily to Europe as and when I need to.
NY feels like this sweet spot that isn't too far from Ireland for us as a family. In regards to coming back to work on projects like Other Voices, for me, it's a no-brainer. I get to disappear to Dingle for a weekend every December and work with the most incredible crew and discover new music every year. That gig really doesn't feel like work at all.
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Other Voices feels like a family at this stage, with the work that goes into it each year and all the amazing characters involved — it's so special. I just love working on it.
When you were young and first getting into photography, what were your main sources of inspiration? How has that changed (or not changed) in your inspirations now?
As a teenager, I initially discovered photography primarily via skateboard magazines and music; specifically album artwork. I was always fascinated by the process – "who made these photographs? How does that work?"
These days, my inspiration is obviously a lot broader, but at its core, I am still largely drawn to photography, film, street culture and the idea of telling stories through imagery.
Your work is so varied, between landscapes and outdoor shots, portraits, fashion work, etc. Which is your favourite to shoot, and why?
They all feed into each other. I don't have a specific favourite thing to shoot but I am always curious about new collaborative projects and just keeping myself on my toes. I like to push myself out of my comfort zone with what I shoot.
When shooting portraits, which you've become known for, what is the main thing you look for in your subject?
I rarely direct people when shooting with them, and a huge part of what I do involves building a certain level of trust with my subject. Photography is a conversation and you need to be able to talk to people. Sometimes I talk way too much and run out of time but it's worth it, because ultimately, I am interested in walking away from each portrait I work on with an open, honest representation of that person and their state of mind at the moment in time.
Sometimes it works better than others, but regardless of the outcome, the process is always interesting.
The Irish arts scene is growing and evolving so rapidly now. What are you most excited about when it comes to the Irish arts scene, especially photography?
I think there is some incredible music coming out of Ireland right now — there always is, to be honest. Right now, I am listening to artists like Lisa O'Neil, Kojaque and FonatainesDC from Dublin, or Colm Mac Con Iomaire — musicians who just have this raw, natural talent that seems so effortless and pure. I listen to a wide range of stuff and always have.
In terms of photography, I think the work of people like Linda Brownlee and Eamonn Doyle over the past few years has been incredible. I'm also really excited by the new breed of young photographers coming out of Ireland — people like Andrew Nuding are pushing things forward in a really beautiful and original way.
What has been your career highlight so far, and what are you most looking forward to shooting this year?
It's all been a such a privilege, to be honest — certain moments stand out, such as opening up the box with my first book (DIY, published by Prestel, available on Amazon) and seeing it for the first time. Those moments are surreal and just so exciting, but also fleeting. I don't dwell on any of it too much — I just keep pushing forward and trying to focus on the task at hand.
Any plans for 2019?
In between commissions, I'm working on a new personal project that will hopefully end up as a book and exhibition at some stage soon. I'm back in Dublin to speak at the Offset festival in April, so that will be a great way to reconnect with lots of familiar faces.
I love New York so much and feel so settled here at this stage but there is always something so magical about getting back to old friends and family in Dublin for a few days.
Photo: Rich Gilligan