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'Paddy Irishman’ Photography Exhibition Takes New York City by Storm Throughout St. Patrick’s Week



Large-scale immersive exhibits by photographer and filmmaker Ross O’Callaghan and creative agency The Brill Building feature Paddies from all walks of life, including some more famous Paddies…

'Paddy Irishman’ Photography Exhibition Takes New York City by Storm Throughout St. Patrick’s Week

A unique photography exhibition by Irish artist Ross O’Callaghan has become the talk of the town in New York City this St. Patrick’s Week.

The photographer and filmmaker from Dublin opened not one but two stunning exhibitions of ‘Paddy Portraits’ in Manhattan ahead of St. Patrick’s Day. The immersive exhibitions - at Lume Studios, Tribeca, which ran for two days this week - and outdoors on Pershing Square Plaza, in front of Grand Central Station, running until March 22nd - feature intimate portraits of 50 men named Paddy, Pat and Patrick, Padraig and Padraic of all ages and from all walks of life.

The idea for the Paddy Irishman Photography Project was formed when Ross, a professional film and TV cameraman, met award winning architect Paddy Bradley in 2013 during filming for the Channel 4 TV series, Grand Designs, which Paddy later went on to win. “That’s not a typical Paddy,” thought Ross.

Paddy, a part-time farmer who designed and built a stunning shipping container home on his family land, later saw his work recognised as TV presenter, Kevin McCloud’s all-time favourite design of the 20 year series.

Ross’s idea kept forming and on St. Patrick’s Day 2021, he and his partners Roisin Keown and Peter Snodden at the Brill Building creative agency launched a call out for men named Paddy, Pat, Padraig, Patrick etc to get in touch and tell their stories through this unique photography project. Their aim was to showcase the diversity of the contemporary Irish male and challenge the global stereotype of the ‘Irish Paddy’ through a stunning collection of portrait photographs. 

Three years later and more than 500 applicants later the Paddy Irishman team have finally opened their ambitious large scale public exhibitions introducing us to 50 Irish Paddies in the heart of New York City throughout St. Patrick’s Week. 

The series tells the story of a remarkable intergenerational cross-section of Irish men and promotes a new narrative of contemporary Ireland. It challenges the idea that there’s any such thing as a typical Paddy and asks us to question our own assumptions around what it means to be Irish and male in today’s society.

The interactive installation at Pershing Square outside Manhattan’s Grand Central Station features Paddies including comedian and TV personality, Patrick Kielty; Dublin based make-up artist Patrick Blue; gay and differently abled activist Paddy Smyth; professional, world championship Irish golfer, Padraig Harrington; double bronze Olympic boxer Paddy Barnes; Hollywood film director and maker of I Went Down, Man About Dog and Rosie, Paddy Breathnach; award winning architect, Channel 4’s Grand Designs and RTE’s Home of the Year TV personality Paddy Bradley; Nigerian born actor, Patrick Martins; Ireland’s strongest man Paddy (Pa) O’Dwyer; Limerick electronica musician Paddy Mulcahy; Ugandan-born traditional musician, formerly of the band Moxie; Paddy Hazelton; and Paddy Kehoe the veteran racehorse owner. It also features miscarriage-of-justice survivors Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six, and Patrick Maguire of the Maguire Seven. 

The invitation to exhibit the portraits at Pershing Square was extended to O’Callaghan and community partner for the project, the New York Irish Centre, by the New York City Department Of Transport (NYC DOT) Arterventions program and the Grand Central Partnership. O'Callaghan is the first Irish artist to be honoured in this way; his week-long public multi-media installation which also features audio interviews, seeks to share the Paddy Irishman stories with as many as possible, including the two million people expected to attend the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The ambitious first-of-its-kind not for profit project which was also supported by Tourism Ireland and the Irish Consulate launched in Lume Studios Tribeca on Wednesday March 14th. Deputy Consul General of the Irish Consulate in New York, Dermot Fitzpatrick, said the timely exhibition will help counteract the Irish stereotype and highlight the impact Ireland has on the world.

“Nowhere does St. Patrick’s Day like New York but sometimes we do face the stereotype of the drunken Irish, as we’ve seen recently in the media. But the Irish impact here is so much bigger than that. Our cultural footprint is way out of proportion to our size. This exhibition further challenges stereotypes. These portraits show a diverse, vibrant Ireland. The exhibition is ambitious, innovative and it reflects who we really are. Congratulations to Ross for his spectacular work,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Speaking at the launch event, Ross O’Callaghan said that when travelling abroad, being called ‘Paddy’ was something that never really sat well with him. “As a camera person or an artist, you spend years trying to build a name and work for your name, then some stranger takes it away from you by calling you a different name. 

“This project seeks to tell the true story of the Irish male experience in contemporary Ireland - not the stereotype - through personal stories and lived history across several generations of Paddies, looking at how much has changed and the values have stayed the same.”

The artist said he would like to keep updating the project, as new stories of Paddys doing remarkable things are constantly emerging and evolving. "It's an ever-evolving story, and we can keep it going if we get the support we need to fund it," he added.

Commenting on his involvement, Paddy Smyth, an Irish activist with cerebral palsy, who won the second series of The Circle on Channel 4 TV, said, “When you hear the word Paddy abroad you don’t think of an Irish disability activist who’s gay, so I love Ross’s vision for this project. I’m Paddy many things, and modern Ireland is diverse. The word Paddy and Irish men in general abroad have a certain stereotype… and it’s about time someone challenged that.” 

Uganda born professional trad musician and bodhran player, Paddy Hazleton said, “I’m not your typical Irish Paddy. The places Irish music has taken me – all over the world - the people I’ve seen and friends I’ve made have stood to me. I’ve been lucky to have been blessed with a rhythmic gift, since my Mum got me involved with Irish music. I’m very proud to be a Ugandan-Paddy Irishman.”

Speaking at the launch at Lume Studios in Tribeca Roisin Keown said, “The Brill Building believes in getting great brands, ideas and people the fame they deserve. We’ve become one of the most successful boutique agencies in Europe because we only work with the very best creative talent. When Ross shared his vision with us, we knew we could help him share a new narrative of Ireland in a way that would get the world’s attention.

The exhibition at Pershing Square Plaza is in partnership with NYC Department of Transportation ARTerventions program and Grand Central Partnership with community partner New York Irish Centre. Sponsored by Tourism Ireland, The Brill Building, Dean Hotels, Talon Media, Walsh whiskey, Batska Consulting, The Element Post Production and Locky Butler sound.

Featured widely in the US media since its opening, the exhibition can be viewed on Pershing Square Plaza outside Grand Central Station throughout St. Patrick’s Week until March 22nd. The full suite of images will also be displayed in the New York Irish Centre in Queens throughout April to coincide with the centre’s events to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

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Categories: Museums and Galleries, Sports and Leisure

The Brill Building, Fri, 17 Mar 2023 13:20:45 GMT