Paul Gaffney holds an MFA in Photography from Ulster University and his practice-led PhD research explores different ways of experiencing and representing the landscape, and how the act of image making can both enable and disrupt a sense of flow and connection with our environment.
His work has received a number of awards including the Arts Council’s Next Generation Award and Visual Arts Bursaries, the FSAS Digital Media Award, and a Strategic Projects Award from Wicklow Arts Office, and has been nominated for both the Prix Pictet and Deutsche Börse prize.
Gaffney’s books have been nominated for the Photobook Award at the International Photobook Festival Kassel (2013 & 2016) and shortlisted for the European Publishers Award for Photography, and he has exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions in the US, UK, the Netherlands, South Africa, Ireland, Italy, France, Spain, Australia and China.
Over the past several years, I have been exploring some of Ireland’s remaining oak forests, where I have been investigating how I might push the boundaries of immersing my senses in these spaces. I have been experimenting with how photography, video and VR might be used to translate an embodied experience of these spaces for an audience.
A key part of my investigation has been concerned with how we experience space through movement, in a multisensorial and tactile way, rather than organising and viewing it from a separate, isolated distance, as per the rules of the Western pictorial tradition. In particular, I am interested in how the non-visual senses can be activated to develop a heightened awareness of both the body and environment.
One of these approaches has included walking and working in forests at night, which has resulted in a number of photobooks and exhibitions, where I have used sequences of images to suggest a slow careful movement through these dark, enclosed landscapes.