East Cork Camera Group was delighted to host Irish Independent photographer and three-time P.P.A.I. Photojournalist of the Year, Mark Condren, at our recent meeting at The Midleton Park Hotel.
Mark's presence at the meeting was a long-awaited event and had been in the planning for some time. While we anticipated something special from the man, the fact that we were joined by photographers from Fermoy, Cork City and Ballincollig, all eager to see his presentation, heightened the expectation of the full house attendance and he didn't disappoint.
Going through his slideshow, Mark showed some brilliant work: news, politics, topical, poverty, crime, unrest, sad, happy, funny - they were all there and from all over Ireland and the world. The images were fantastic but hearing the stories behind them brought them alive to a point exceeding their native two dimensions. This was not a surprise of course, as anyone familiar with Mark's work, will identify with the unique perspective and intrinsic quality that is its hallmark.
A native of Castletownroche, Co. Cork, Mark worked with 'The Corkman' before moving to the 'Sunday Tribune' and then to the 'Irish Independent' where he currently works. An award winning photographer, Mark won his first P.P.A.I. Photojournalist of the Year award in 2009 and followed it up with another win in 2010, came second in 2011 and won it again in 2012. Considering that this competition is open to the top photographers in their field from the thirty-two counties of Ireland makes this a staggering achievement and speaks volumes for the esteem in which his work is held.
In 2012 Mark published his stunning, hard covered book entitled "The Guards: Behind the Scenes with the Men and Women of An Garda Síochána" - a photographic representation of twelve months of unprecedented access to the Gardaí (Irish Police) as they went about their daily work. Self-funded, the book was launched by An Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny, TD and all profits from the book were donated to Temple Street Childrens' Hospital, Dublin.
The inspiration for the book came from photographing his father's last day on the beat in his native Castletownroche in 2009. Sergeant Larry Condren served in the Garda uniform for thirty seven years and, as he followed his father around the village, it dawned on Mark that a photography book like he had in mind, had not been done on the Gardaí before and so the seed was set. Having been granted permission to join and photograph members of the force across the length and breadth of the country for twelve months, Mark set about recording their daily work and compiled a selection of images that really grasped everything from the seemingly mundane chore of operating a checkpoint in rural Ireland to the adrenaline-inducing arrest of criminals in inner-city Dublin.
The book was a resounding success and was sold out within a week! If you have a copy of it, hang onto it as it is out of print and not likely to be reprinted any time soon.
Following his presentation, Mark answered questions about his job and the reality of being a photojournalist. Being in a camera club environment, camera settings were mentioned in the hope that there was some magic formula that would enable us to bring home a shot approaching the quality of one of his. Mark said that in his line of work you must be ready for the shot so, while settings are important, they are not as important as getting the shot. "What's the point in being precious about being in 'manual' and missing the shot", he said and in that, I think, there is a lesson for us all, especially those of us who sometimes agonise over f-stops, ISO and other technicalities when what we should be doing is concentrating on 'getting the shot'.
Well done Mark on an inspiring presentation, an enlightening talk and a revealing Q&A session.
Photographs (except for Mark's portrait at the top) by Finbarr O'Shea.