I have in my possession a wonderful book, An Unweaving of Rainbows; images of irish writers (1998) by one of my favourite photographers, John Minihan.
With a personal inscription to me from the man himself, An Unweaving of Rainbows is a thing to treasure, and contains a collection of images, spanning thirty years, of some of the legends of the Irish literary world, the living and the dead…amongst them J.P Donleavy, Edna O’Brien, Pat McCabe, Neil Jordan, Joseph O’Connor, Brian Keenan, John Mc Gahern, William Trevor, Seamus Heaney and many, many more.
Born in Dublin, and raised in Athy, County Kildare until he was eleven years old, John Minihan moved to Britain with relatives, and by the time he was sixteen, was working as an apprentice for the Daily Mail. Over the years, he would return to Athy for holidays, always with camera, collecting an amazing array of monochrome portraits and images of the people, many of them aged and residing in the County Home where he loved to visit…the collection was subsequently exhibited in London in 1971, and was described by critic, Harold Hobson, as sad, poignant, despairing and sublime.
Samuel Beckett was also vastly impressed by the amazing character studies of John’s portraits, which led to him inviting John to Paris, where he took some of the most famous images of the legend, then in his eighties. You can see those images here: http://johnminihan.blogspot.ie/p/samuel-beckett.html
Over the lifetime of his career, John has been the creator of many other iconic images, including those of Princess Diana, and the man I have featured here…Mickey Rourke.
Taken in the late eighties in London, John tells the story of asking Mickey’s permission to photograph him. Mickey, interested in John’s work, and very taken by the image of the old woman, a resident of Athy, holding a photograph of herself when she was young and beautiful, agreed, but he would only pose for him, holding the poster of John’s exhibition, Hometown, the people of Athy, County Kildare, 1962-1985.
Sublime? Yes. Poignant? Yes.
I have only one other word for that Rourke fellah…CLASS!
The Photograph reproduced here is the copyright of John Minihan and is part of a permanent exhibition in Athy Library, curated by Kildare County Arts Service.