August 12, 2021 | Features

Personal Projects — Claire O’Rorke

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As part of a new series, the IPPVA has asked its members to share some personal work — projects that they choose to do outside of their normal practices.

As full-time professionals, our members are primarily focused on exceeding standards in their relative fields. But as creative professionals, it’s important to us that we explore beyond the boundaries of our respective portfolios.

Whether it’s collaborating with other artists or taking time out to pursue new genres of photography and videography, the urge to flex our creative muscles is oftentimes overwhelming. It’s an aspect that many potential customers don’t get to see when searching for an IPPVA member, so we wanted to highlight some of them here.

First up is IPPVA wedding photographer, Claire O’Rorke, who we asked to talk about her collaboration with composer, Fiona Linnane.

Written by Claire O’Rorke

About Me

I have been working as a photographer for 16 years now. I am primarily a wedding photographer and I am currently based in Cork. I studied photography in Dun Laoghaire where there was a heavy leaning towards the creative. But gradually, over the years as my business took off, personal projects have been pretty much a thing of the past. Paid work, just having too many interests, and a lack of motivation have kept me from doing photography projects.

still image from a video of a reflection in a well of a bare tree. There are subtitles at the bottom that say "we call then Holy Wells"
Still image of From The Well — by Claire O’Rorke and Fiona Linnane

Project Background

Lucky, I got to spend lockdown 1 in Ballyvaughan in North West Clare. I am also in the process of moving there and transitioning my life and business there. During this lockdown period, I would share little iPhone video clips from around the place on our family WhatsApp group. Then my sister-in-law, who is a composer, started putting her compositions into the clips. It was brilliant and really excited us both! I’d have left it at that, but not Fiona Linnane! Fiona really was the driving force behind the project, and when she secured funding from the Arts council, well, there was no backing out then! 

We explored a bunch of different ideas; the daily domestic, the passage of time, fertility in lockdown, and the whole no partners allowed in hospitals situation. We started down a few routes, but in the end, decided on an exploration of the wells around Ballyvaughan. There are four wells within a small enough area that in different weather conditions I would visit.

They are such interesting places with great stories attached. One of the wells is reported to be the one to go to if you have a toothache, another is reportedly for bad eyes! I took stills and video clips that captured the different moods of the different wells. I didn’t set out with any pre-planned images in mind. I pretty much went with the flow! I took some still images but soon decided that moving imagery would be better. It was also how the whole idea got started in the first place. It seemed more fitting.

I really don’t know much about video. One of my favourite wedding photographers in the UK does photography and video — Camera Hannah — and I did a workshop with her some time ago to learn some of the basics. The IPPVA had also run a workshop on video for photographers some time ago which I did. But really what I learned from both those was that video was not something I was going to introduce to my business any time soon! But I still like video, so using it in a personal project was a good environment for me to learn.

Sneak Peek

I shot it all on Canon 5dmkiv. I used a 35mm lens for wide shots. It was a good fit for one big open well in the middle of the stoney Burren landscape. I used a 50mm for some shots and I used a 100mm macro lens for some up-close shots of creepy crawlies in one of the wells. I almost never use a tripod when I am photographing, as I found manoeuvring that around into the position I wanted so frustrating. I struggled sometimes when deciding on a focus point. Sometimes I was focusing on the surface of the water and sometimes I was looking deeper into it, which was tricky because the water was moving. But actually, I think the distortion that happened actually ended up adding to the atmosphere.

Putting It All Together

After an afternoon or evening out gathering material, I would show Fiona what I had and she went off and composed. She would send me a piece and I would add imagery that I thought complimented it. We discussed, tweaked, edited, and shot some more and did the same again. I was worried that I wouldn’t deliver the kind of stuff she wanted, but actually, she had no ideas about what I would do, and similarly, I didn’t give much thought to what she was going to write. But then loved what she produced, and she was happy with what I produced!

There are three pieces; one came together really easily but the others required much more time to get. I am really pleased with two of the pieces, but I think I may revisit one of them again at some stage.

How Has the Project Benefited Me?

It feels great to have done something so different from my day to day photography work — to have achieved and finished something that’s just about being creative. And I really enjoyed the collaborative process — indeed it wouldn’t have come together without my collaborator.

How Has It Benefited My Business?

Well, that’s hard to say since it hasn’t been shown yet. We are showing it for a week in Newtown Castle which is attached to the Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan. I would hope that it will introduce me as a creative person to the new community I am moving into. It will be a conversation opener at the very least.

Interested in Seeing It?

The work is titled “From the Well” and will be on display in Newtown Castle, Burren College of Art, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare as part of Heritage Week 2021 from 16-22 August.


Find out more about Claire O'Rorke

Since getting my first point and shoot camera I have loved photography. With encouragement from a great art teacher I put together a portfolio and made my way to study photography in Dún Laoghaire. If you asked me on graduation I would not have be...

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