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Country of Yeats: Exhibition of photographs by Alen MacWeeney on view in Ireland
MacWeeney drew meaning for his photographs from the lines of Yeats’ poems.

WEXFORD .- KAMERA ∞ is very pleased to invite you to the opening of our new exhibition featuring the acclaimed Irish-born American Photographer artist, Alen MacWeeney

As a young man in the early 1960s, MacWeeney left his native Dublin for New York, where he worked over several years as an assistant to photographer Richard Avedon. He returned to what he called “the Ireland of my imagination” in the summer of 1965 on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of the Irish poet, with the vision of a short-term project inspired by Yeats’ poetry and a desire to explore the people, places and settings that inhabited his words.

MacWeeney drew meaning for his photographs from the lines of Yeats’ poems, and in one of the two portfolios in the gallery, gave meaning to his photographs by pairing them with lines selected from Easter, 1916, Yeats’ most powerful political poem.

Yeats as a younger poet was out of step with the increasing nationalism of his country, preferring to dwell on Ireland’s past rather than the complicated possibilities for future independence from Britain, despite his love for the beguiling Maud Gonne, one of the rebellion’s staunchest supporters.

But after the Easter Rebellion, when the British swiftly and ruthlessly suppressed the Irish Nationalists, Yeats wrote that [a]ll changed, changed utterly: /A terrible beauty is born.

The terrible beauty of that poem’s most famous phrase is the birth of a new and fiercer Irish nationalism, about which Yeats was ambivalent, but whose martyrs he celebrated in the last lines of the poem.

None of MacWeeney’s images seems political. Rather, the nexus of the two Irishmen lies in their shared belief in the power of their art to preserve collective memory. MacWeeney’s poignant black-and-white photographs of faces (both living and dead) and places (city streets and pastoral county scenes) speak uniquely of Ireland.

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